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Twomb

By Mike Brown

“Things are gonna change, I can feel it.”

-- George Herbert Walker Bush

Plato never wrote:
0. Phaedrus: What do cocoons do?

1. Socrates: They are tombs and they are wombs too.

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Book I

1.

His father used to say: there are two kinds of people in the world: doers and talkers. Talkers talk about things whereas doers do them. He would discourse at great length and with considerable eloquence on this topic, explaining thoroughly to his son that he was not a talker but a doer like his father and his father’s father before him. But they were all talkers.

When he finally got down to doing, all he did was leave.

Since those days he’d started collecting two-kinds-of-people theories. Maybe as a way of holding onto his father. He noticed that people misclassified themselves within their own systems often; that people in general contradicted themselves more often than they thought. Indeed, he thought, most people lack the self-awareness necessary to maintain logical consistency. Later though he changed his mind.

The only one he’d held onto was one that he never remembered hearing anybody else tell him, although he didn’t remember making it up either. He thought he might have come by it in a dream. But regardless, it was his favorite of the two-kinds-of-people theories: it went: there are two kinds of people: those who deconstruct binaries.

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2.

...Dark waters...

...An approaching light...

He opened his eyes.

His room. That blank feeling. Empty air.

To the bathroom in a daze. Joints like jazz drums: Bap pop Bap. Toilet. Picking the sand out of his eyes, pissing; flushing. Looking in the mirror. Pale wan owl face. Who. A creeping scum in his mouth. He groaned and grabbed the Listerine off the toilet tank, swished, spat.

Naked and chilly out to the living room, turning up the heat for after his bath, then to the bookcase at the west wall, scanning the titles. He’d just finished The Heart of the Matter by Graham Greene and wanted another book set in Africa. But something darker. He grabbed The Spider’s House by Paul Bowles and brought it back to the bathroom.

Bath. Hot water first, holding his finger under, adjusting the cold. He’d just recently scrubbed the tub; the grime was gone but there was something that would not come out no matter how hard he scrubbed. A metaphysical squalor, an old ghost of dirt.

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He was in the tub six pages before there came a knocking at the door. A familiar, unwanted knocking. Jamie Finnegan, come to complicate his quest for simplicity. He’d anticipated this though and locked the doors the night before. If he hadn’t, Finnegan would have come in, consumed all of his food and liquor and then started inviting people over.

Finnegan began calling through the door, making jokes. But Arthur managed to tune him out and soon he was back in Africa, traveling slowly along on Bowles’ hallucinatory prose through the dunes and heatwaves of the “mind”...

After a couple of hours, around noon, he got out, got dressed and made some coffee. He used to put liquor in it, Bushmill’s or Kahlua, but not anymore. Usually. The rock n roll days were over. Mostly. No drinking in the morning anymore. Sometimes with Finnegan maybe.

Finnegan, his yang. A social animal, highly evolved; voracious (or starving) (and sad: Arthur sometimes saw a secret sad clown trying to fill an inner absence with the souls of others: to make real the smiling make-up mask, the song and dance, the laughter. Sometimes the people with the most friends are the loneliest people of all.)

On t.v. there was a special on a geneticist who’d isolated the gene that determined whether or not people believed in genetic determinism. “People who don’t have it just can’t believe in it,” the geneticist said. “It’s biologically impossible.”

Another knocking at the door. The same knocking really: presumptuous and peremptory: familiar: “friend.” And the voice: “We know yer in there laddie…” Finnegan’s brogue routine, like everything else he did, could be very charming or very irritating depending.

Then the voice again, but lower – he could tell that it was not directed at him, not meant to travel through the door. More new friends. Always new friends for him whose loneliness could not be slaked. Maybe a

6
girl or girls. Pretty girls. He got up and got the door. Finnegan stood there bouncing on his feet, twinkleyed. There were two girls behind him: one light, one dark. Both pretty.

“Toppa tha marnin!” Finnegan piped.

Arthur invited them in. He vaguely recognized the two girls, thought he’d seen them somewhere, but was not sure if they’d never met. Finnegan hurried through the living room and into the kitchen without introducing anyone. “I’m Arthur,” Arthur said quietly, smiling nervously, sticking his hand out as if for them to shake but then retracting it and looking down.

“I’m Brit,” one said. She had sparkling eyes and bright teeth.

“And I’m Maya,” the other one said. She was tall and thin with black hair and dark eyes.

“Well, welcome to my home. Get comfy. Would either of you like a drink?” Then before they could answer, he said: “I’ll go see what we have,” and fled into the kitchen.

“Okay,” they said, and sat.

Finnegan was in front of the refrigerator with both doors open, concentration on his face. A mist crawled out of the freezer and down to the floor like a creeping ghost. As Arthur watched him the concentration became consternation.

“Is this it?” Finnegan asked, without taking his eyes off of the desolation that he beheld. “Dude, this sucks ass.”

“There’s a bottle of Bacardi behind the ice trays,” Arthur said. He knew that Finnegan would have found it eventually. Boozehound that he was he had an uncanny ability to sniff such things out. A clairolfactorant,

” “Bobby Ojaque?” Arthur asked. going to the utensil drawer and getting out two tablespoons. Who then all get up and scratch you. Finnegan had been a Catholic School Boy.” Finnegan said. furrowing his brow. “Did you?” “Of course. Then one of them said: “Just don’t make them too strong. chuckling evilly. It’s not like he’s coming over or anything. almost in unison.” “Okay. Bobby Ojaque was always bad news: close contact with him was like breaking thirteen mirrors in a room full of black cats sleeping in open umbrellas. “I just saw him at El Borracho’s and he sold me some pills.” they said.” Finnegan said. “Did you come into direct contact with him? Like skin on skin?” “What the hell are you talking about?” Finnegan said. Last time you made them too strong. and had an intuitive understanding of ritual.” Like a ritual. It’s part of the transaction.7 or smelepath.” Arthur said. Before he became The Devil. . He took four pint glasses down from the cabinet by the sink. girls?” “Okay. taking the spoons. Do you have two clean dry tablespoons?” “Sure. He asked Arthur quietly: “You want some speed? I got these kickass pills from Bobby the other night. What the fuck? I mean I shook his hand. He called out: “Rum and Cokes. It was only a matter of time before he found the beers in the vegetable crisper. He was always telling people to relax because he was always making them nervous. “What the hell are you doing hanging around him for?” “Relax.

“Jamie Finnegan. “Okay. Finnegan added some ice cubes to each glass and then topped them off with some of the coke. then licked the residue off of the spoons.” he brogued.” Arthur reprimanded him.” Arthur said.” Arthur said.8 though without knowing. “You got that right. shaking his head. you have no shame. Arthur took an ice tray out of the misty freezer and twisted it until it crackled. “I needed real dry hands for that. “Who are these girls anyway?” Arthur asked him. After that he finally washed his hands. I don’t want any of that bad Juju. placed the other spoon over it and pressed the uberspoon’s convexity into the under-spoon’s concavity using the heels of his palms. Arthur assumed.” Finnegan said. then brought them back apart and scraped some of the powder off of the bottom of the top spoon with a gentle and precise movement of his thumbnail so that it fell down into the bottom spoon and then used the same thumbnail to portion the powder into two halves and add one half each to two of the pint glasses. After he finished adding liberal portions of rum. boyo. He put two pills in one of the spoons. putting the ice tray down on the counter and getting the coke out of the refrigerator. were for the girls. “Fine. “Well wash your hands. “Lemme add the rum before the ice to make sure the pills mix in good. which.” he said. “And why the hell didn’t you introduce us when you came in instead of just running into the kitchen? You fucking Philistine…” .” Finnegan sighed.

they looked familiar but --” “So today you get to get to know them.” Finnegan said. Then another voice said: “Can we smoke in here?” “Sure.” Finnegan lied.” Finnegan said. though. Anyway I saw them at El Borracho's the other night a couple of weekends ago.” “I didn’t know them. “Here. You’ve been there. He pulled out two little baggies. smirking. “We’re talking about you.” “Here they are. “They work at that coffee shop downtown.” “What are you guys doing in there – making out or something?” one of the girls called in to them from the living room. I mean.” a voice said. “Relax. “Ha ha.” he said.” “And now here they are.9 “They’re Brit and Maya – I thought you knew them. “Take these.” Finnegan said. I promise.” . took out one pill from each and held them out in his palm. I forget the name. “What the hell?” Arthur asked him in a harsh whisper. You’ll love them.

With one blue eye and one green. because. I wish more people did ask me. “What ‘stuff?’” .” she said. who sat on the floor with her legs crossed. Eve. a crooked rainbow. but he was also wrong. Brit: bright but bent. Trust me. I don’t really believe in that stuff anyway. slightly slackjawed with nerdly incredulity. “Some o’ that speed and a nice little sleeping pill. so he just came out and asked her. a beam of light unwoven through a cracked prism.” Arthur took the pills and washed them down with some rum and coke. she didn’t take offense at all. People just assume they’re contacts. They went back into the living room. “I mean like genetically. He smelled the thick skunky reek of good pot. it’s a good. I’m an expert. That kind of smoking was allowed. but she was so friendly and didn’t seem like she’d be offended. I have more if you want.” he said. he reasoned. But my eyes are real. Zombinal. they had to be. Finnegan sat down in a chair over by Brit. In an hour you’ll be rockin. and he was right. He felt vaguely like Adam in Eden. No. Well. they were real. They think it’s rude to ask but I wish more people would…” “I didn’t think that was possible. So that was what she meant by smoking. Contacts. because they’re not contacts – I’m very proud of them. because of genetics. “I hear ya.10 “What are they?” Arthur asked apprehensively. she said. Amped yet dreaming.” “’That stuff?’ Arthur asked.” “Oh. It’s not my thing. Didn’t they? He wanted to ask her but that was rude. “Don’t worry it’s totally okay.

kind of joking.” she said.” Maya said now. although. “I hate smart chicks. which is to say it was something that made him genuinely bitter. Yesterday we focused on visualizing new non-dualistic archetypes and letting go of our .” she indicated the slash between either and or with a diagonal karate chop motion of her hand. but he didn’t say anything. they tended to pop up.. it might be biologically impossible for her to believe in genetic determinism because she lacks the necessary gene. actually. her mouth unfurling in a smoky smile – “if science is based on proof then she’s proof that it’s possible. Religious and science people are both afraid to admit that there’s a lot of things we just don’t know… they’re all caught up in lines and dualisms.11 “Genetics. this being the City of Faith. A lot of science stuff.. “Of course you were. kind of not. He hadn’t figured her for a bible-thumper. “No. “Because you feel threatened. Arthur wondered if she could deconstruct binaries. “Just not a science fundamentalist. “I was joking.” Finnegan said fake mock bitterly. Like everything’s either/or.” Also. laughing darkly.” she said.” “Are you religious or something?” he asked.” Finnegan said crankily. Then Brit said: “My energy teacher says we have to break free of dualistic either/or paradigms and embrace new archetypes.” Maya said. “Plus. like a child. Arthur thought.

he could sense that Brit and Finnegan were looking at him. but he still did not look away. and without looking or taking his eyes off of hers. she laughed and smiled. “My energy class. The western soul is constipated by its addiction to rationality. She seemed to expect him to know. until today) he felt. and blushed. auras.12 old dualisms. . and then Finnegan finally broke the unbearable roaring silence of it saying “dude how fucking stoned ARE you?” and everybody laughed. As she looked into his eyes he felt his heart and stomach thump and squirm. which explained nothing. He considered telling her his favorite two-kinds-of-people theory but nobody ever got that one. who paid close attention. but before she did she seemed to whisper something to him with her eyes that reminded him of the sound of the trees when he was alone in the forest. or believe in love at first sight (although he hadn’t believed that a person could have one blue eye and one green eye either.. But Maya had heard him. smirking. but strictly for tactical reasons.like he was falling and he wondered if he had any chance at all with this darkling feline creature. he knew Finnegan didn’t.” “What the hell kind of class is that?” Finnegan asked. and even though he didn’t even know her. It was actually Maya who looked away first. then noticed that it had gotten very quiet. he looked at her.. meridians and American-eastern philosophy and medicine in general to Finnegan.” she said. so instead he said: “isn’t ‘dualistic’ and ‘non-dualistic’ really just another dualism?” But he’d waited too long to speak and she hadn’t heard him and now she was busy trying (most likely in vain) to explain chi fields. . stop staring or it’s going to get awkward. The way she looked at him it seemed like she was trying to say something dark and secret to him with her eyes. Arthur understood.. this dolorous curious black pearl girl with her burndoubt wishingwell eyes. I’m not into the scienceocracy and stuff. He had to tell himself look away now..

He felt crazy and alive. “That’s so weird. There was a rumble of thunder outside.13 Slowly the laughter subsided. He had never felt anything like it.” Arthur said. He was blushing and it burned. “Once I finish the classes I’m taking now I’m quit the café and just do massage.” Maya said.“ Arthur said.” “I’ve been in a bunch of that. “Lightning and snow’s even weirder. “Of course not!” she piped. “Eerie. smiling.” “Do you do happy endings?” Finnegan asked.” “That’s Finnegan. Happy and hopeful and afraid. “Fuckin freaky. . “So Brit –“ Finnegan asked: you’re a masseuse?” “Yeah.” Maya said. he hadn’t blushed like that since childhood. “Totally.” “I like it. Things were blurry now.” Finnegan said.” Brit said. smiling down into his lap. Saying nothing. “That’s gross. “I think it’s thundering and snowing outside.” she said.” Finnegan said. giggling.

Arthur .” “I thought you were from Colorado. he couldn’t tell if the colors were on or under the surface. a black t-shirt and black leather boots that went halfway to her knees. “Don’t use D&D words when there’s other people around. “That’s what I’m talkin about. Brit said: “It sounds like bowling.” Maya said.” “Shut up Asmodeus you dumb homunculoid. The bowl was swirled with dark colors ribboning in the round blown glass. Finnegan shook his head and let out a long breath with a wet raspberry noise. “Dude.” Finnegan nodded and Maya said “totally. She scrunched her nose and said “skunkadunka.” Finnegan said harshly.” They spoke for a while of different things and listened to the ominous thunder. “You said you were from Colorado.” Maya made a snorting noise: she’d been trying to smoke pot and laugh at the same time. raising an eyebrow.” Finnegan said.” “Word to the wyvern. puzzled. There was a rumble of thunder.” “I’ve lived all over. “Army brat.” Arthur said. They were old and well worn with many creases and scuff wear on the pointy toes. “When I lived in Kansas. Brit laughed. She had on black jeans.” looking down at what she was doing. “For realz. playing fast drums on her slender thighs.14 “For real?” Finnegan asked. I can’t believe it.” “Ahhh yeah. Arthur mostly avoiding looking at Maya but after a while he grew bold and peeked at her surreptitiously and saw that she had taken out her weed and was packing a bright green bud into her glass bowl.” Brit said.” Maya said.

” . which in a way was just what he wanted. “You’re a little snow angel. but in another way was what he was most afraid of. “We are pretty cool. There had been brinks of disasters and precipices careened at.” She took a hit and then passed the pipe to Finnegan before erupting into a brief coughing fit. Glowed. And sometimes they aren’t true.15 thought to himself.” Finnegan said proudly. I only just found out most of this recently. He could tell that Finnegan liked Brit: aside from her physical attractiveness and congeniality. she showed a willingness to believe the implausible that Finnegan looked for in a potential mate. but no one had fallen. Maya said: “I have to go to the bathroom. It seemed like those two would be absconding off somewhere eventually. He would be able to lie and get away with it and trick her into sleeping with him if it came to that. When she heard the bathroom door close Brit said to them quietly: “You know.” she said. “Aww. leaving him alone with Maya. They passed the pipe around. her parents died when she was young. Her real life is kind of sad os sometimes she talks about other things instead. “Is there enough snow outside for a snow angel?” Brit asked. I don’t think anyway. I think that things are actually going well. and smiled. “You guys are cool. she’s not really an army brat. grinning. parted the curtains and looked out at the iron-gray sky and the softly falling snow. Maya got up and walked over to the window.” and walked out. She’s an orphan. I’m having a really fun time.” Finnegan said.

“You’re not really going to put Nirvana on. Brit didn’t answer. “How could you not like music?” Arthur asked. “Why’s it so quiet in here?” she asked. are you?” Brit asked. aghast.” Finnegan said. deliberately misunderstanding her. After a minute she came back in.” Finnegan said. “By Nirvana?” Finnegan quipped. She stopped talking and sat there smoldering.” “That’s not what I meant. “Yeah. “What – you don’t like music?” Finnegan asked. grinning. “What are you – soulless?” “Never mind. Arthur got up and went over to the CDs and the stereo in the corner of the room. . He asked Arthur: “Do you have that? I love ‘Territorial Pissings. There was a lull as they sat around pondering the mystery of her.16 “So she’s like a pathological liar?” Finnegan asked.” Maya sighed hopelessly.” Maya said.” Finnegan said. grimacing. Maya gave up.” she said. “You already said that. He felt like he was tilted slightly to the left and might fall over.’" “That’s not what I meant. “You’re right. “We should put on some music.

using her arm for a pillow. The room seemed to swim and they all felt submerged in a fluid. Arthur put a CD in the stereo and came back to where everyone had been sitting and sat.” “Yeah. the snowy white day fading slowly to black in the vast burgeoning shadow of the iron-grim sky. “Hey!” he called out.17 Finnegan sang quietly “when I was an alien…” and played fast drums on his legs. “Anybody need a refill?” Finnegan asked. Nobody did. “Man. “That old gag.” Arthur said. “I’m pretty fucked up. “Classic. looked around and said: “Looks like you made the drinks too strong again. He walked into the kitchen and started sniffing around.” Arthur sighed tiredly.” Maya said. swaying slightly where she sat. rolling her eyes and giggling dementedly. Finnegan asked Arthur if he had any candles and Arthur asked him “cans of what?” and Finnegan said “never mind. stumbling disjointedly around the room. Outside lightning flashed off snowflakes in a million scintilla of brief . until she found a nice spot to lay down on her side. resigned. the wind began to howl.” Brit said. I feel kinda dizzy. “I’ve got something. a distant abstract smile crawling lazily across her face. She got up and walked around a little looking at the floor. “You’ve got some beer in your vegetable crisper. Outside it got dark. getting up to go into the kitchen.” She looked dazedly down at her hand as if she had just discovered it.” Arthur felt as though he could feel in his stomach not only the earth’s turning on its axis but the vast slow curve of its orbit around the sun. putting on a CD.” Thelonious Monk came on. moved by invisible currents.” Maya said.

and he swam up through darkling timewarp deapths from primordial strangeness of amniotic mocean up and up into something like the penumbra between night and dawn rising (anagogic?) through the roiling hallucinated solipsoporismic gloom. as he drumbledreary stumblestagger swims upward through the vast un(anti?)still ... . and beneath an his underlight urreal up from swimbubblup to the surface... Everything was darkness. Then everything was darker.. causal spacetime and conscious awareness differentiating out of dream like birth from a deep warmb.18 brilliant light.. 3..

but that of his consciousness is swaying and careening. the container that he usually considered empty precariously the vessel (the ghost machine) space… .19 chaos wherein he (his “I.”) it feels as if is moving steadily continuous. linear.

. Well God damn. finally feeling himself breathe. leaving behind the dark deapth mocean slumbra. picking the mocean sand out with his forefingers. only then did he notice someone else in bed with him. the ineluctable rise into the daylight of consciousness and that feeling. the palpable physicality of it. you can’t be without having a body somewhere. a naked-seeming female someone with bright hair splayed over shoulders of almost-glow alabaster. a naked-seeming someone. Brit. it doesn’t have a body. like the wheeling of stars in the night – he is rising.he knew that it is morning and he was himself now... How’s it hangin?” He waited for the room to respond but it did not.20 …but if it’s empty space it couldn’t move the way that it did. He sat up in bed and rubbed his eyes. Ain’t this a bitch. empty space can’t move. and to fill the air now with his breath and vibration he said: “Hola dia nueve.. . He looked around and saw no-one and lay back down. flowering outward up from fluid flux into a vast airy vagueness. But he felt some… presence… in the room with him.) And almost imperceptibly slowly. you need a body to possess locality id est be somewhere. that humanoid imperative: know what is happening and now breath rising up through the dreamy darkness of his insides just as he once rose up through the… . he thought to himself. which may be why ghosts are nobodies and everywhere.

Don’t panic. maybe. could barely think at all yet. Honest. furred here and there with phosphorescent moss. don’t flee.. chasing her through a crazy cramped labyrinth with walls made from big smooth blocks of stone. he said to himself. He tried to remember what had happened the night before but could not. (and possibly ((it was infrequent but not unheard of)) induce a mystical state of cosmic oneness with the psyche of the universe. Just try to remember.. Pale daylight softly half-lit the room so that everything looked kind of smoky and pale yellow. . to defecate but also to facilitate intellectual activity. the sun’s light drained and damped by thin gray cirrus clouds and cream curtains so that everything seemed submerged in a turbid champagne. losing her.. He told himself be cool. (whereto anyway?). plenty of time to work this thing out. No way. He held his head in his hands. He sat on the bowl. and watched his toes as he wiggled them on the cool tile. and tried to go into himself and look and listen into his mind at/to scenes and sound-bytes from the day and night previous. He got out of bed cautiously and crept quickly and quietly into the bathroom. She might think you’re trying to downplay or deflate or deny the experience and its potential meaning and give her the old sleep and slip.but he kept running into blankness when he got to Brit saying that Maya was an orphan and Finnegan the boozehound sniffing out the beers in the vegetable crisper and the music of Thelonious Monk in its tipsy precision discadence and as . Be respectful. finding her around a corner or dissolving into a shadow. Chased her. his elbows on his knees.. Maybe. Maybe it isn’t as confusing as it seems – you're just out of it..21 It might not have disturbed him as much as it did if he hadn’t been dreaming about Maya. Just tell her that you can’t remember. This one did not get him to that religious experience place but it did help him think..

which the shop. Moving quickly and quietly out of the john and through the bedroom he picked some clothes up off the floor. he was surprised to see it so devoid of any evidence of human activity. An Americano. he just picked up whatever was quickest and hurried into the living room. Now I finally know what silence looks like. It was eerie how undisturbed the snow was. Maybe something espresso. He saw no footprints or wheel ruts on his (still unplowed) street. The snow up the sides of the furrowalls was piled high in dirty lumpy crests four. Café Ole. There were numerous little piles of (arguably) wearable garments and undergarments. That would require a trip to the coffeeshop. He put on his boots and his winter coat and hat and went back out into the wind and the snow. the notes like erratic footsteps through his mind leading him staggering into a void… Cool breeze on his nethers as the water whorls down under the city.22 he follows the mnemosong. and a vacant apartment. He got up and washed his hands and face. five and even six . was on. went out and then quickly came back in. He put his shoes and his cap on. When he turned onto Guadalupe Street. he thought to himself. The clouds had cleared now and the sun radiated a brutal heatless light. Next was coffee. what would she think? What would she do? If he were fast she would not even have time to worry about where he was (and get spooked and bolt). But if he went out and she woke up to a vacant bed. he saw that the street had been plowed (it was much more of a main street than his was) and the sidewalk had been cleared with a snow blower. There were around thirty inches of snow on the ground and a wailing banshee wind.

. so that the world seemed composed of corridors and storefronts. but his order came too quickly now: Dave called him and held out a white paper bag and a cup-tray. After a few minutes someone called his name. Good day for surf music. but it was the wrong voice coming from the wrong direction. or if he should get some pastries. Busy even. Some looked over at him and he wondered if he looked as strange on the outside as he felt on the inside. occasionally dusted or darkened with shadows or dirt or swept up by the wind in pretty glittering squalls. said thanks and walked over .23 feet high. embedded in or emerging from a vast abstract whiteness. on couches. Eventually he decided to get a latte for Brit and some croissants. which would be good as long as she didn’t fall in love with him or any crazy shit like that. He looked over and saw Stevie Salazar sitting over by a small table with a man of indeterminate age who did not look familiar but who smiled broadly at him with glittering bits of gold in his teeth suggesting Mexican dental work. just get it and beeline to the door. all suspended.. with a line and everything. tried not to grimace. “The cold bright dust of disintegrated stars. She seemed like a latte-drinker. People at tables. in cushiony chairs. and if so then what kind. At first he thought it was that his order was ready. It was complication after complication. Aquatic staccato surf-guitar echoed around the room in endless wet reverberations. Stevie hand-beckoned come hither. Even if she didn’t want it at least she would appreciate the gesture. He walked over. There was a feeling of silent and sublime sepulchritude like he was walking through a French Symbolist poem about a snowy tomb. he thought to himself. He waved. telling himself: I’ll make an exit when my order’s ready. he ordered and paid Dave (the owner and the only person working so far) and took a seat at a vacant table nearby while he waited. He was kind of glad that the line was long because he didn’t know yet if he should get a drink for Brit. He took them. When he got to the front.” He got there and it was open.

” he said. “How bout that Old Man Winter. Arthur didn’t know what that thing was but it made him nervous and he told himself don’t get nervous. said: “This is Jerry.” Stevie said. Then. Thirties to fiftes. how’s it goin?” he said. sticking out a hardlooking hand. Geraldo. I shouldn’t have come here.” the man said. It was hard to tell. Geraldo had a firm handshake. but Stevie was the one who responded: “Jamie Finnegan. He had strong features and was of indeterminate age. You guys are good friends. had to put the bag and the tray down. “You gotta friend in common. as if privy to some secret joke. looking at Geraldo. “Really?” Arthur said.24 to Stevie and friend. “Hola. who just kept looking at him. He’d clearly been addressing Geraldo. He seemed high on something.” Arthur said. They all just kind of stood there staring at each other drug-dumbly. Weird. “Really. Something about him seemed very alien. which didn’t work. the usual fake-friendly. “It’s good you two met. his teeth. indicating his friend. smiling again. “Hola Arthur. He asked: “Oh yeah? Who?” even though he knew. no?” . my friend from Juarez. "What's the good word?" “Some say the world will end in ice.” Stevie said. waiting for something to happen. hoping to be able to leave quickly after an acceptable minimum of small talk. so that Arthur. showing his gold.” “Geraldo. no? Si.” Stevie said. raising his eyebrows in a strange artificial way resembling a ventriloquist’s dummy. whose hands were full. Like brothers.” He smiled slyly as he spoke.” “Fuckin loco huh.

like a wild turkey. huh?” “Yeah. You should talk to him. Finnegan was always getting mixed up with the wrong characters. thinking of the proper euphemism… “…get in touch with him. “Whaddaya mean?” Arthur asked.” Stevie said.” “That sounds like him.” Arthur let out a nervous laugh and hated the sound of it: jabbery. “He wants to…” and he paused. Some people laughed strange animal noises in another corner and then it stopped. smiling. “Geraldo’s looking for him. I haven’t seen him in like a coupla weeks.” Geraldo said.” Geraldo said.” Geraldo said. His voice quavered slightly: “We barely hang out anymore. This was more than the usual Finnegan bullshit. . “Taking things that’s not his.25 He wanted to just say I don’t what the hell you’re talking about. Well.” “You want me to tell him something?” Arthur asked.” “Oh. This was probably something bad. “I got tired of him coming over my house and eating all my food and drinking all my liquor.” When he saw the vexed look on Arthur’s face he laughed. and now Arthur had stepped into his shit and he didn’t know what to do don’t get nervous! He heard mocking laughter in the distance in his head. then said: “You are his friend. He could feel sweat running down his armpits along his ribs. You’re looking for him.” he said. but he knew that Stevie knew that it was true. immediately regretting it. “That sounds like him to me. “I’m looking for him but I don’t want to find him.

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“Yeah,” Geraldo said. “Tell him that he wants to find me before I find him.”

Half thoughts like dust-devils swirled through the ghost town of his head. He tried to just breathe. He had to keep reminding himself that this didn’t involve him; and he waited for something to happen, and over by the counter a dog barked and then there was a long silence and he felt like he was falling. His mouth got dry and he waited for them to speak until finally he realized that they were waiting for him to speak but then once he knew that he was supposed to speak he didn’t know what to say.

“What were we talking about?” he asked meekly. He just wanted to go home.

“Tell Jamie Finnegan to come find me – if I have to find him I will be very upset,” Geraldo said, and Arthur nodded, and Stevie nodded, and Geraldo nodded; none agreed but all nodded.

“Can do,” Arthur said, having trouble getting the words out because of how dry his mouth was. He picked up his stuff and said: “Well, I gotta go – I’ve got company at home and I don’t want to keep her waiting.”

“Okay,” Stevie said. “Good to see you, Arthur.”

“Always is,” Arthur said, hoping he would never see either of them again except maybe on Cops. Then he said to Geraldo: “It was nice meeting you, Geraldo.”

Geraldo stuck out his hand so that Arthur had to put his stuff back down on the table again; and when they shook hands Geraldo squeezed his hand with great force, stared into his eyes and smiled truculently as he shook his hand for an uncomfortably long time. Arthur noticed that he had a tattoo of a coiled rattlesnake on the back of his hand. Don’t tread on me.

“Of course. I’ll tell him to find you,” Arthur said, and then, his ordeal finally over, hurried away, walking back out into world where the wind howled like an enormous invisible beast as it swept along desolation

27
white street. Squalls sparkled.

When he got home Brit was still asleep. He wondered if she was dreaming; he hoped that he was dreaming, asleep in bed, alone, with everything uncomplicated, and that he would awaken his same boring self: getting up, making coffee, taking a bath and reading about danger instead of actually being in it, not scared and hating his best friend who flew mindlessly to trouble like a moth to light.

All he ever wanted was to be boring. Boring was exciting for him – actual exciting was too much excitement to bear. If he did wake up alone uncomplicated and untroubled he told himself that if there was a knocking at his door this morning that it didn’t matter who it was or how they knocked or anything else: he would not be answering it.

4.

Finnegan awoke suddenly, sweatily, into the morning, out of a dream; as if he’d been shocked by a sudden noise or a flash of light; but there had been neither.

He’d been dreaming about Brit: they were frolicking naked in a forest clearing where one leg of a rainbow was planted on the grassy ground next to a big bronze cauldron of liquid light that glowed a pale warm gold like early morning sunlight. Brit was singing in all different colors and when she jumped joyously through the streaming rainbow the colors splashed happily. Finnegan had been singing (in Gaelic, which he did not know how to speak when awake but which he sang in easily in this dream) and his lilting phrases fell into harmony with her splashes of color. They were happy. It was rare that he had happy

28
dreams

and disappointing for him to wake up alone.

In his bed. To the dismal disarray of his bedroom with its strange odors of mysterious origin. Its cracked paint. He opened his eyes and the first thing he saw was a big hairy spider crawling across a crack in the ceiling that resembled a web (spun from negative space) and he had not been conscious for more than two seconds before he realized what he felt like (which should not have surprised him but so often did), and he articulated it to the smelly abject apathy that sat there hopelessly in the dreamless room with him; one short simple syllable: “Shit...” and then let out a long groan of lamentation fit for a Prometheus in chains (and he wondered how long before his liver was et by buzzards of booze…)…

“I can’t go on like this,” he said to the spider. In vain, though: he had talked to that spider before and he knew it never listened. Selfish spider. Jerk. He got up slowly and staggered out of his bedroom, through the living room and into the kitchen, got a beer out of the fridge and walked back through the bedroom to the bathroom to wash.

Too quiet. He was alone again. He hated it. It reminded him of how empty he’d been feeling lately, especially in the morning when it was quiet and he was hungover, which was often. Which had been getting more and more often. His head throbbed, his bones felt brittle, his skin didn’t fit right and his hair itched. And there was a furry slime in his mouth that tasted like the grim reaper’s asshole.

“Shit,” he said again, looking in the mirror. He opened the cold can of beer, sucked the foam off the top and drank half of it in one long chug, his adam’s apple hopping and dipping. He put it down on the toilet tank next to the sink and regarded himself in the mirror again. His eyes were bloodshot and his skin glistened slick-sickly with a film of alcoholic sleep sweat. He scratched his itchy hair and tried to remember the previous night’s events but could only recall flickers and flashes, so he closed his eyes and tried to concentrate and visualize, but instead of seeing what had happened he saw things that couldn’t

29
possibly have happened: a glass that falls upward and shatters on the ceiling, it’s dark contents spreading out into an oblong Rorschach blot; a fish jumping out of a television screen with a cartoonish kamikaze shriek; overflowing barrels of antic tarantulas …

“Shit,” he said again, opening his eyes, looking in the mirror and shaking his head at himself.

“Look at yourself. You disgust me.”

“When you were young you talked about how you’d never grow up to be like him.” Him was Brendan. Brendan was his older brother. He had died three years before. Driving drunk. Closed casket.

He’d always been drunk and fucking up and everybody always spent so much of their time and their heart worrying about, feeling sorry for, being ashamed of or wanting to murder him. And Jamie had sworn he wouldn’t be like that. And yet here he was: just like that.

He hocked a big loogie up from the dirtiest parts of his inner dark and spat at his image, in its eye, so that it would stop looking at him like that; but it kept on, glaring balefully. He spit on it again, said: “I’m sick of you. I hate you.” He and his reflection glowered at each other and seemed about to go for each other’s throats. There was a long silence.

Finally it broke. He grabbed his toothbrush and his half-can of beer and he got into the shower feeling kind of rotten about how there’s some kinds of dirt and stink you can’t ever wash off yourself no matter how hard you scrub and how it sucked that life was like that. After he finished his beer he brushed his teeth and thought or tried to think. He tried again in vain to remember the events of the night before as he moved the soap slowly over his scarry skin almost as if in a trance. Had he walked home? Alone? When? What about the girls? Had Bobby Ojaque given him the wrong pills? Had the girls slept at Arthur’s? If they had decided to stay, wouldn’t he have stayed there and tried to get some nooky or (instigate and) see some hot girl-on-girl action instead of going home? Walking home? Alone?

30

After he dried off he walked naked into his bedroom, a thin steam coming off of his skin. Getting his socks out of his sock drawer he checked to make sure Brendan’s pistol was still there. It was, hidden toward the back of the drawer. Every once in a while he just had to touch it to make sure it was there. (Sometimes he got nervous thinking about it. Scared, even, like it might somehow escape and end up at a murder scene or a drug bust.) He took a pair of socks out and put them on and walked over to the tall mirror on the closet door. It had a long crack along it like a dead little lightning bolt. Its crackedness reminded him of Brit’s crookedness. She’d given him signals the night before. That he was sure he remembered. But then what? Why wasn’t she there now?

Regarding his scarry body in the mirror: a life (sentence?) written in the skin: surgery scars on both knees (good pills after those); one on his right front thigh from an accident involving LSD and a campfire in the woods outside Wheeling, West Virginia; one on his right forearm that he’d gotten fending off a German Shepherd in west Texas; a bullet wound on his left tricep from when Kate had shot him because she loved him (“I love you, Jamie Finnegan!” she’d cried); two long ones on his belly from when Janelle had slashed him because she hated him (but she’d only hated him so much because she’d loved him so much in the first place; "I hate you, Jamie Finnegan!" she’d cried; but that was only half true); one on his chin from a steeltoe boot in Hoboken, New Jersey; and one under his lower lip he’d gotten working in a warehouse and got hit in the face with a forklift... ...and others various and sundry, some with origins unknown (somewhere in the Big Blurry), some best left forgotten.

He got dressed and drank another beer. He wanted something stronger, though; he could’ve sworn he had something lying around somewere, but he couldn’t remember. His cellphone rang. He did not answer it. He sniffed, squinted, turned his head. The small cabinet over the stove was too high up for him to look in but he could probe around with his hand. He found a pint of Fighting Cock Bourbon laying flat and took it down, snickering at the name as he opened it; it flowed burning down his throat and settled in a hot ball in his guts. His cell phone rang again and he did not answer it. He scowled at it, growled at it: “Fuck off.”

31
The Fighting Cock Bourbon reminded him of gambling in Mexico. That guy with the gold teeth whose money he took.

5.

“I shoulda had these on the whole time,” Geraldo said, donning a pair of sunglasses with swamp-green lenses and fake gold frames. “Everything looks much better. The snow looks the color of money.” He looking out over the glaring snowscape: slow sweeping gaze of the predator.

Stevie was a foot shorter than Geraldo and weighed about a hundred pounds less. He’d once seen Geraldo kill a man with a knife in Nogales. Not that he’d used a knife to kill the man; the man had attacked him with a knife, and then Geraldo had killed him with his hands, feet, knees, elbows and head. Instead of keeping out of arm and knife’s reach like anybody else would have done, he’d gotten in close right away and jammed the guy up, giving him no empty space to work with, and head-butted him; the guy brought the knife back to swing it but he never got it swung: Geraldo smashes his head into homeboy’s nose and it explodes in blood and Stevie knew right then that it was all over for the other guy and he also knew right then not to ever fuck with Geraldo. From then on, in fact, he was in awe of Geraldo. He admired him, feared him, wanted to be him. Barring that he at least wanted to be approved of by him.

“Those are nice, bro,” Stevie said. “I got to get me some shades like that, man. Fuckin bright out here.” He picked up his pace, trotting now so that he could keep up with Geraldo, who had long legs, especially for a Mexican, and took swift sweeping strides.

Bemusedly. Stevie followed behind Geraldo even though he was supposed to be the one who knew where they were going. maybe more like yours. he thought to himself.” Stevie said. when I grow up. hurrying.32 “Real bright. almost adding. left hooks. his leather jacket. which didn’t do much because the light was attacking from the sides and the ground too. or adding very quietly in his mind. Is there one on the way?” “No. not happily. uppercuts of sunshine. But I wanna get a nice pair anyway.” .” Geraldo said. Someday I’m gonna have a superfly jacket like that. They walked down Guadalupe Street with the wind blowing mostly at their backs. which was a silly thing to think or almost think because he was forty three years old. although sometimes it snuck around in a questionmark from behind and sucker-punched them. which was the only thing that Stevie could look at that didn’t hurt his eyes. A hawk wheeled overhead. “So what’s with that guy?” Geraldo asked. “Like walking on a cold sun. Occasionally he would look around to get his bearings.” “Arthur?” “Why are you asking me questions? I’m asking you questions. spiraling inward towards some invisible center in the sky. Right hooks. “Who?” “That guy we just talked to. It was a nice jacket. squinting and visoring his eyes with his hand. So he looked at the jacket. I don’t think. not those cheap shits they always got at gas stations. Then said: “You want shades maybe we’ll stop at a gas station or something along the way. He kept his eyes mostly on Geraldo’s back.” and laughed again. Mister Finnegan’s friend. squinting.

Let’s do everything nice and easy.” “I hear you. he’s kinda fuckin scumbag. If you say he’s okay I’ll figure everything’s okay and it better be okay. I dunno.” He kicked a chunk of snow and it exploded into tiny glittering bits dispersing in the wind and light. Finnegan.” “Right. turn left up here. unwheeling in a widening gyre. He never does nothing wrong to nobody. bro.” Stevie said. but Arthur’s okay. Arthur.. my homey. . you know.” “Okay.” “Right. They had to walk on the street because the sidewalk had not been cleared yet. Very mellow. making a little plosive half-syllable that pfted and diffused in the cold crystal air.” “That’s good.33 Stevie went to say something but then stopped. Arthur? I mean yeah he’s cool. then. Okay. The hawk in the sky had reached its center and reversed its course.” “Okay. They turned and walked down a little side street. “He’s my friend.” “Well what’s his story?” “Arthur?” “Don’t ask me – I’m asking you. Furreal.. Fuckin Jamie Finnegan. Sorry bro. Here. Geraldo said: “So the guy’s name is Arthur who we talked to about Mr.

He wanted people not to have it. Like the earth was an enormous egg hiding beneath the winter.” “But he might be able to pay?” “Maybe.” Stevie said. I told you I don’t know him well. . wondering. “Maybe. smaller side street that looked very recently plowed. nodding at Geraldo’s back.” “Probably? How probably?” “I dunno. So he could do things to them. then said: “I don’t know. “Is this the street?” Geraldo asked.” Stevie said. Probably probably. Finnegan like he said?” “Oh yes.” Geraldo said. But I mean I don’t really know him that well.” “But he might be able to pay? If he doesn’t we have to do things to him. If Arthur tells him to come find you he will come find you. “What do you think Mr.” he said. Probably. “That’s good. Then said: “Turn right here.34 “And you think he’ll tell Mr. Sometimes Stevie got the impression that Geraldo didn’t want the money. Finnegan will do?” Stevie pondered this for a moment.” They turned right and walked down another. very smoothed and white.

” “What?” “Never mind. A swirling funnel of snow spiraled past like a bleached genie. “Did you see that?” Stevie barked. while as if on cue the weathervane atop the soon-to-be-dead Jim Daniels’ little adobe abode turned in the whistling wind and let out an eerie green metallic creak. gold bits glinting in the light. esse. They stopped and stood.” Stevie said. looking at Stevie now. smiling that cold smile.” .” Geraldo said. green lenses gleaming. Are you sure Jim Daniels is home?” “Pretty sure. “Huh?” “Weathervane. The arrow thing is called a weathervane. “From the inside. jumping a little. See that snow hill next to the tree?” “Yeah.” “And which house is Jim Daniels’?” “That pinkish-looking one with the arrow thing on top. eyes bugging.” Geraldo said. pointing with one hand while shading his eyes with the other even though it didn’t really do anything.35 “Yeah. “Weathervane.

No answer. After a caffeine fix and some television Arthur’s head was better. The weathervane wheeled wildly. just his name in very straight letters. Geraldo smiled. He called Finnegan again. He’d already called twice and left two messages. 6. so during a commercial he went and checked the mail.” “Hm. There was a letter for him with no stamp or return address on it. he asked Geraldo: “So what are we gonna do?” “What do you mean?” Geraldo said. or hungover and cranky. He knew he was just sleeping. “Didn’t you know that we were coming here to kill him?” “What?” The hawk shrieked in the sky. so he tried not to worry. The silence made Stevie nervous. At one point he saw a silhuoette move past his window that he figured on a day likt that could only be the mailman. Oh well. That was hard . Not a check. He left no message.36 “I think that’s his car.” Geraldo contemplated this for a minute.

He called him again and left another urgent message. he would not heed any of the many warnings he’d already been given. beatings and brushes with death – and he always came twinkling back with his cheeky manchild charm. But that had had the opposite effect. An autistic. but if that was true. Once upon a time Arthur had believed that someday something bad enough would happen to slap some sense into him. getting fired from job after job. and joke at you relentlessly. tell you relax. so that by the time they’d reached their thirties he’d become a teenager again.. especially after Brendan died. just wink and grin Finnaganly.. I thought it for so long that I stopped thinking it. but something’s bound to happen some time. Arthur hoped that he would call him back in time so that he could tell him to find Geraldo before Geraldo found him. and as Arthur had grown beyond his crazy days. then he was not this hypothetical man. Jamie had aged backwards... and change. He opened it up and took out the piece of paper inside. hadn’t been licked. although he did not tell him specifically about Stevie and Geraldo. Nice . Arthur always thought he’d grow out of himself eventually. or don’t be such a tampon. He wondered if whoever'd written on it was trying to hide his or her identity or if he or she wrote blandly like that all the time. or something. or learn to read the scars he’d collected.. going out on three day benders and getting in fights. A robot? It was not sealed closed. but bad things had already happened and Finnegan had survived every catastrophe – repeated jailings. unless what? Scar after scar. that something could happen to him – I started thinking I’d thought it just to feel superior and given up on the idea. A schizoid type perhaps.37 though with Finnegan. not understanding that a man might read his destiny in the constellation of his scars. He thought that if he told it to him in a message something would go wrong but he wasn’t sure what exactly or why. gambling. no character. The handwriting was in all capital letters.. He picked up the envelope and stared at it. and that he’d learn. or type – he would not learn. no identity. only to find now that something is going to happen unless. He would never learn. It had no flavor.

Fancy. cream-colored with a kind of a wavy texture. rewritten and rerewritten the letter countless times and every attempt had come out weird. He shrugged and put the paper back into the envelope and put it on the end table. clingy. Just an empty space. bloated. clumsy. weary. wordy. gassy. stringy. wild. plastic. bleary. He sat and channel-surfed for a while. Folded in thirds. He wondered if there was any beer left in the vegetable crisper. trying to get lost in the flickerflow of light and sound. weak. gummy. . When he unfolded it to read it there was nothing there. 7.38 paper. wooden. cloying. She’d written.

was better than actual physical sex with another woman. struck her as amateurish and made her feel stupid. And quit. Chris had a big fourwheel drive truck with huge tires – you had to climb up into it – and it was probably one of the few vehicles in town that could handle the adverse driving conditions. She hadn’t told him the precise nature of their errand because he didn’t like hearing about her amorous ambitions and/or adventures involving other men. but the truth is hard to tell sometimes. a throbbing ache that coursed through the darkness of her body like a second blood. All of her attempts to write poetry. after the novelty of their invention had passed. put it in an envelope and wrote his name on it. just tell the truth. something that she wasn’t. kissed it softly (with her eyes closed for wishing. with the sweet dark light of her eyes upon him. She’d read and admired some of Arthur’s poems in magazines before she ever knew that they lived in the same city. like anybody’s – completely impersonal. (He needed the dream that she was secretly in love with him but afraid to do anything about it. Then she’d called her friend Chris and asked if he would drive her by a friend’s house to drop something off.39 stalky or otherwise horribly wrong. nothing.) wearing no lipstick and leaving no discernable trace save perhaps a faint shadowy aura. . Language shining wrongways through a lens. She shuddered to think what he’d think of her feeble attempts. and it was that stupidity that she’d felt more and more now with every new draft that of the letter. and then folded it into thirds. making sure that the writing looked nothing like her own. in fact. Instead of struggling with language any longer she’d just taken some fancy cream-colored paper that she got for Christmas one year. She felt an overflow but all she could write were attenuations. She wanted to express what she felt so strongly. every word she wrote created restrictions on what could follow. a simple series of neat and normal lines. practically the same neighborhood. he knew it wasn’t true but he had to dream it. like a distinct physical sensation. Just a smile from her. She saw him as a “real” poet. though not for lack of trying. The roads were still in terrible shape. She preferred the writing of others. and she wanted to say it simply.

She sat on the couch.40 They could not touch his soul with sex the way that she could with a look.I love the Stones.” Chris said. it was basically an unrelenting orgy intercut with kickass live concert footage of The Jobbs from various venues big and small all over the U. Ash was very small. and Canada. “I don’t usually dig Dylan. He’d told her – after she’d told him one awkward night that she didn’t feel that way about him – that he’d take what he could get. “This is awesome.S. there was a really raunchy bottleneck solo during which singer Jack job ran his tongue up and down the mikestand disturbingly and then began writhing and copulating all over it. but most of all the music was totally rockin. people sometimes even mistook him for some kind of varmint.” Maya said. It was like Mtv meets HBO. a small grey cat named Ash in her lap. “I don’t really like Dylan. and she knew that he was always waiting…) He took her out and they dropped the letter and then drove around town a little before going back to her place and watching some t. . They played Dylan’s Highway Sixty One. Her neighbor Jim Daniels had once almost killed him with a flat head shovel before realizing he wasn’t a rat. A filmmaker had followed the band around on tour for a year and been given all-access. so the language was raw and the flesh was plentiful. But then when he started singing you forgot all about the shennanigans. They watched a documentary about the rock band The Jobbs called Full Time Jobbs on Mtv13. taking another pull from the pipe. “I mean you know me –” in a tight I’m-holding-potsmoke-in-my-lungs voice.” “I like Blonde on Blonde.v.” Chris said. because he could rip shit up. He purred (which is purrhaps catkind’s wordless love letter to the world) and his eyes narrowed as she ran her slender forefinger slowly around his ears in a mobius pattern. “I’m all about the classic rock -. with graphic material unedited for content. Mtv13 was a little-known bastard offspring of the Infinity/Viacom/AOL/Seventh Circle/Skull and Bones/TimeWarner Corporate Media Rahab.

Someone had come to Jim Daniels’ door collecting. or begging for his life as he was brutally beaten.v. Workin it. She zoned out on the t. too. They did not hear Maya’s neighbor screaming and howling in fear and agony.41 Hendrix. Jumpin Jack Jobb wailed: The Devil’s in my doorway I don’t think that I can pay Yeah the Devil come collectin I didn’t have no cash to pay He said “I ain’t here for your money. She knew the whole classic rock spiel already. . The Doors…” Maya nodded abstractedly. Maya and Chris bobbed their heads as it rampaged through the room. and scratched her cat behind the ears. from their second album. Clapton. purring with his eyes closed and drifting into sleep and dreams of previous lives. I come for something else today… It was one of their evilest songs.v.. trading riddles with the other cats and mousing in the granaries of ancient Egypt. not purring now but vibrating with the music. Ash slept peacefully. tortured and finally crucified with tentspikes on the bathroom wall. Chris turned up the t. their hectic homage to Faustian bluesman Robert Johnson. enjoying the warmth and vibration of little Ash as he lay sphinx-like on her lap. not paying attention. which was wired through the stereo (he’d set it up for her) for The Jobbs’ performance of Devil in my Doorway.

his own.. wondering through the libraries of his mind and finally finding his way to the word. and return promptly thence to slumber. aura’d in a moist warmth of afterglow. the flow. “Emptiness. deep in the labyrinth of himself.” But different then other zeros. empty of everything except creation. and he heard a voice. this spent richness. For a while he just lay there in postcoital reverie.. Thinking of words. vast bright and shining. and he saw in a flash what his work was to be. but which seemed to come from outside of himself. hearing music. soon left him dazed as she drifted away back into a deep sleep. And he felt in his fertile dark parts a slow explosion blossoming lazy and immense like a dawn. which needed a word. He drifted dreamily. feeling vaguely used and liking it.. rejuvenated. Afterwards they lay there steaming.. have him.. like thunder or sunlight. which radiates from it with each new day. other emptinesses.. then getting an idea. receptive to our dreams. She slept heavily. did not stir from her stillness. and whispered it: shunya. and everything began to fade away as he went. a granule in the ocean of this overflowing absence. the rhythm. as if from a sky. An early zero word.. exhausted. To him it meant empty like the sky. Sanskrit. spent and emptied. drifting musically through thoughts of words. and Brit. of which the blazing sun is the merest mote...42 8. who apparently had awoken only to call him back to bed. He wandered into himself.. He walked out into the living room and got his notebook . thought about the music under words. The white paper on which the poem of the world is writ.

who could say how long. Jim Daniels had never felt so alive as he did when he was dying. The tile was cracked and chipped behind his wrists and ankles where Geraldo had hammered the old rusty spikes with a three-pound hard rubber mallet. 9. let flower the symbols from his shunya soul.. and sat on the couch and began to write down what he knew would be the title of this. for a moment or an eternity. questions and ghosts whirling and swimming in his skull. his pen overflowing as things began to fade away and his visionsong enveloped him in its flow and. his life’s work: Hamlet at Golgotha By Arthur Bisbee …and then he let go. and the water took the blood as it whorled down into the darkness beneath the surface of the earth. where Geraldo had left the hot water running (it sounded like something whispering sibilant secrets as the steam rose up and filled the room as if with spirit) and the drain open. naked on the bathroom wall. His blood drained down into the bathtub.43 and a pen. as during those last conscious minutes he hung crucified. both of which he’d found in Jim Daniel’s basement (when as he’d walked up the stairs and out of that darkness he’d explained smiling to Stevie that God provides for . time disappeared..

He kept lighting on then taking off and flying away from and then wheeling back and lighting on again and he thought it a marvellous thing. His last serious girlfriend had been a molecular biologist and she’d always said that human beings and all living things are primarily composed of an electric fluid and that the life cycle and the food chain had begun with chemical reactions involving the transformation of light into electricity. He’d been surprised at how much thinking he’d done in such little time under such adverse circumstances. charges and signals. He’d thought about many things after the screaming part as he lay there on the wall dying in the silence after they left. He flew like a bird through his own mind. if this is what happens to everyone who dies. the human body. and he wept as the electricity left his body bound for whatever worlds to come and only now did he realize how alive he’d been and it reminded him of Lisa with whom he’d once shared a warm womby bed. in some way that he did not and would never know in this life. Lisa. something to do with dark cycles and Einstein. and he missed his mother too. whom he’d taken for granted and whom he’d never even really fully felt his love for until she left and now as the life drained out of him he realized how much he’d loved it and he saw a vast light approaching and it was like he was being sucked into a star that. appreciating his only as he was losing it. and maybe it already had will it happen to Bobby Ojaque too or if . was also his mother and his death and he wondered briefly. and he remembered a conversation he’d had about how the human body was essentially an electrochemical phenomenon composed of various compounds. fleetingly.44 what’s meant to be). and he wished he could remember it all now and he missed her.

45 and maybe to that other guy too Bobby’s friend who’d been with them Finnegan and maybe everybody else who was ever born and died or maybe only those who are crucified. feebly and almost little coughs and t he inaudibly. and it seemed kind of funny so he laughed a little. and he felt as he approached this light or as it approached him that he was a tiny tadpole spermatozoon swimming through a vast void toward a great and luminous egg. just three “hgh hgh hgh…” bathroom d is appe are d and the w o r l d w i t h i t A n d N o w i s .

46 a radiant chaos..a blazing white light in an infinite space .. ...

47 he was dead now and it felt like nothing he’d ever felt before except for maybe being .

End Book I .48 born.

sore from hard work. Clear sky. puffing or swearing) and only rested when he absolutely had to.49 Book II 10. even if sometimes he wished he was anywhere else. And Big Mike (the jefe. His lungs burned and his muscles ached. It wasn’t like Mike couldn’t get out of the truck and help him if he was in such a hurry. He’d already been working uncharacteristically hard and was already exhausted. who sat waiting in the truck. and he could only go so fast. breathing hard. It wasn’t like it would . Bobby watched a shooting star smear silverly luminous across the night sky and fade back into the black. One guy had tipped them fifty dollars. He made a wish: I wish I was anywhere else. Powder was easier. He was giving Bobby fifteen bucks an hour and splitting tips down the middle so Bobby just kept his head down (except when stargazing) and his mouth shut (except when huffing. As the snow melted it got heavier. having finished his part of the job – plowing the driveway – already) wanted him to shovel faster because it was supposed to get warmer as the night progressed and people would stop giving them big tips if too much snow melted. sweaty and steaming. Night dawned and a warm wind began to murmur over everything – warming things up through the twenties and into the mid thirties. thothbeak moon looking down like a cat’s eye. It was a good job. leaning on his shovel with his elbow stuck out triangular like a chickenwing. but Bobby was hungover and no paragon of health besides. Occasionally he felt dizzy. which was pretty warm after the cold day – and slowly the snow had begun to melt. thin. although it was true that Big Mike was the jefe with the dinero.

wanted to get their hands on him. and publicly she’d blamed it on the elements and her old age but privately. which was known to happen. listening to the music. on the inside.50 actually happen – wishes never come true anyway. If you left too much and then it got warm one day but cold the next. so you had to find your rhythm of work and rest. off their upcoming album Blowhand at the Rim of the World. not just because the jefe was watching but because if you rested too long you started to get cold from being sweaty (he could picture himself ensconced in a glistening sheath of sweat-ice rimed with sugary death like Jack Nicholson at the end of The Shining). the snow would melt and then freeze into ice. how it felt when the wind murmured on his face. and icy walkways are bad. she blamed Bobby Ojaque because he was bad luck and everybody knew it except Bobby himself) and nobody wants old ladies breaking their hips. He was very fair complexioned. He owed everybody. waiting on him. But this was the job that could dig him out of the hole. Mike was quiet. making sure to get it nice and clear. Bobby needed all the help that he could get. Mike had the radio up. Big Mike might be his savior. Bobby Ojaque’s grandmother had slipped on an icy walkway and broken her hip (he’d been walking with her but hadn’t caught her when she fell. energy and fatigue. The DJ was saying: “Here we have the brand new single from The Jobbs.. It made working easier. this night of work his salvation. and being the only person at Bobby’s church who wasn’t Mexican or Chicano he stuck out like a seashell in a coal bin. He got back to work. With bright orangered hair like a halo of fire. It’s 'Psychopomp Stomp'…” The song started. like Bobby. . He liked that it was warming up. Unless maybe you wished for bad or insignificant things like unemployment or finding a penny on the sidewalk or running out of liquor. heat and cold. a straight-ahead John Lee Hooker drumbeat thmp thmp thmp thmp almost like techno as they pulled out of the driveway. He worked hard at his living and who always had a helping hand to lend to those in need. So he worked. or the only one that Bobby had ever seen anyway.. He knew Big Mike from church. After he finished he ran back to the truck and got in. and a lot of people were looking for him. where he was the only anglo. he practically glowed.

They came to a red light at an intersection and stopped. The scytheblade crescent moon (held in hands unseen by what dark harvester of stars?) He saw another shooting star smear silverly luminous across the darkness and fade back into the black like sinking in dark waters. Bobby looked up out the window as they rolled: the vast blackness. the distant stars in their mysterious arrangement. Jumpin Jack Jobb wailed: I have come to take you To the place where you will go I will be your tour guide To the shadow down below Come into my garden Won’t you come into my garden Let me guide you through my garden To the shadow down below Then a shrieking shrapnel of guitars. Jumpin Jack Jobb sang hectic electric: I have the solution To the trouble that you’re in Yeah I got the remedy yeah For the sickness that you’ve been Why don’t you meet me in the snakepit Take the tunnel to the snakepit I will meet you in the snakepit And I will help you shed your skin .51 Bobby tapped his hand on his thigh to the beat and they drove westward into the deepening night. Bobby didn’t make a wish this time.

” Bobby said: “Fuck. The alternator’s fucked.” Bobby said. because that boy was bad luck and everybody knew it except for Bobby himself. God. The truck was dead.” The light turned green. “Buncha snakes.) . Mike gave it gas but the truck didn’t go. The headlights went out and the dashboard went dark. Mike said: “Shit. The music stopped.52 Finally Mike spoke.” Bobby was worried that there wouldn’t be any more work. and the elements. resurrect this truck… It didn’t happen. said inside himself. (And publicly Mike would blame the alternator. the electricity had run out of it. and the truck’s old age. Please. If he didn’t earn some more money he’d be fucked. but privately he blamed Bobby Ojaque. He wished belatedly on the shooting star. He turned down the radio and asked Bobby: “The hell’s he talkin about?” “I don’t know. shrugging.

then getting up and stumbling over to his cd case by the stereo and taking out a cd: The Jobbs: Day of the Rest (Slack Sabbath). stared into the mirror and.) Looking down at the whiskey bottle he felt very quiet like he was in a tomb. Geraldo. prolonging his fall just enough so that he could land on the bed. left hand dangling in the empty space behind the right. a compilation of rare b-sides. in which he held the gun. elbows on knees. So many people to avoid. Tiny raw red blood vessels in their eyewhites radiating. Acrobatic in its way. At some point someone had come to the door and knocked for a while. He put the cd in. The top rolled back and forth as the bottom lay fixed and it slowed and slowed like an ailing metronome slowing and slowing and finally settling into absolute stillness like a dead clock. his voice sour with the aimless hate of whiskey. . He glared crookedly at his cracked mirror otherself as it glared back into him.53 11. mostly acoustic. just tipped over. more someone like Geraldo.” tapping the gun to his temple like it was his finger and saying to his otherself good thinking buddy. The only time he’d left the house had been for a quick walk down to the corner to get a twelve pack of beer and the whiskey that was now inside him. Fuckin A. He’d turned his phone off after the messages from Arthur and one from Jim Daniels. grabbed the remote and did not walk. He thought it might be anybody but Bobby Ojaque in need. maybe we should put on some music. leaning over. stagger or stumble but simply fell across the room. (And though the spirits suffused his blood he felt sadly soulless.. he slurred: “You’re right. bifurcating and trifurcating like little red river deltas lightninging out across the wan eggy whites to the dark horizons of his eyes. back into the deep mocean darkwaters of his soul. An empty bottle of John Jameson’s.. He sat on his bed at the cracked closet door mirror crookedly reflecting. After a long moment he looked up.

. He could hear the pressure hissing out of the room like a gas. he felt broken.. or brave. He sat up in bed and held out his gun arm and leveled it at his otherself.54 He lay there drenched and burning with whiskey. He wept. staring up at the crack in the ceiling.. He felt lost. He began to laugh but then after a minute he realized that he was crying but he did not stop. Jumpin Jack Jobb sang a sad whiskey song called Sad Whiskey Song… In Waltz Time… …The sky is dark And my brain is wet I always remember To drink to forget And when I am dead Never to sing again Put a bottle of whiskey In the box that I’m in And I know there’s a heaven But I’m goin to hell Throw a penny for me In the old wishing well… When the song was over the silence was unbearable. And there was no one there to hold him. With remote control in one hand and gun in the other he felt distinctly American. He sighed his relief along . It flashed and cracked and a hole exploded in the head in the mirror with crooked cracks spidering out from it like sick alien thoughts from a black third eye.. A tendril of smoke like the spirit of a serpent crawled out of it and climbed languidly heavenward sssssss. or free. As American as he felt he did not feel at home. That was better.

with puffy white clouds or lazygrazing sheep.. Shooting himself had been a catharsis. and maybe he really did. And thus dreaming he drifted. Now.55 with it and lay back. like he had a tribe of ancient drummers in a circle in his soul. He closed his eyes and focused on the backs of his eyelids. an abreaction of the mirroreyed monstergods in his mentalpatient mind. It was called ‘Meet Me After Midnight. sadly. He decided that after he woke up he would move to Ireland and become a shepherd and tend puffy white sheep over verdant expanses under deep blue skies softened with puffy white clouds.. saw something like blue skies or green fields. He did . The next song started. and he felt pastoral. haunting accompaniment… Meet me after midnight It don’t matter what you’re on Won’t you come and see me It’s so lonely all alone Oh please don’t deny me baby Because I will be dead by dawn Oh I’m beggin you sweet baby -Don’t you know? You’re gonna miss me when I’m gone He sang along with the words. Soon he did not hear the knocking. azure or verdure. being spent. but what he’d heard was Geraldo come knocking. And he said drunkenly to himself and I’m not just saying it because I’m drunk. but he was drifting quickly into a deep sleep.’ Jumpin Jack Jobb crooned woundedly to a stark. and it soothed him. but with gusto. He heard a rhythmic beating from within (he thought). they would return to their uncertain sleep.

56 not hear the music as Jack Jobb sang… Well I’ve been burned by water And I have drowned in fire And I’ve traveled with a crackle Through the black electric wire Now I’m the one who spins the sandstorm In a wuh-i-den-ing gyre… .

The medium. still looking down at the pages and .. Brit came out cocooned in Arthur’s comforter and looked at him. Lost and loving it leaving a trail of symbols and empty spaces toa find his way back as he moved inexorably forward like Time.” he said.“Aaaaaarrthuuuuurrr…” Brit called from the bedroom. still looking down. He saw her. It rushed through him in a force from another world. held it out and. After a minute of staring she asked him: “What are you working on?” He grabbed a nearby notebook him with his free hand. Until. but he did not look up from his writing. like the ancient cosmologies had. watching the words as the pen left its trail squirrelly-squiggling onward into the great white wordless...57 12. And it poured out of him like thrust from a rocket as he flew through Space. he could see her colors out of the corner of his eye. Hamlet at Golgotha was giving birth to itself. “Could you come in here please? “I’m doing something important. . and he knew that he was merely the midwife between these worlds. Like language itself....

Thanks for writing. I considered making it a short piece but now I think I'll put it in the book.58 writing in another notebook. enjoying the sense of timelessness that comes from being immersed in one’s work. his words truncated and distant. She took the pages and set them down on the end table and then she poured herself some wine. “Can I sit next to you while I --” “No. I hope you’re well.” still writing. I’ve been well lately. sat down on the couch. I have included a little fiction. and read: Dear Crystal. The empty page seemed like a good window to enter the words through. “Um. like when I write. he sent me an excerpt. just wanting to be unbothered and allowed to go. I need to concentrate. Good.. I am an . as yet untitled. said: “Here – read this.. She read: A plump envelope in the mail. although I will not name her Crystal. she thought. it is pure) – timeless. I imagine that’s how light feels when it travels (which is all it does. puzzled.” he said. but I’ve been calling it “Twomb”to myself when I think about it. and took the notebook back to bed and flipped through until she got to an empty page with some more writing after it. okay. Sorry. like the book itself. “Okay. or part of one. in a letter written by a character with my initials – (because those letters figure into the secret scheme of the piece) – to a bright girl like you. As you know this is my first work in English.” she said. the last ten pages.” she said. and took the notebook. I’m glad you’re interested in my work. maybe Prismelda – is that too artificial? Too contrived? I mean.

but that rarely bothers me. symbol of endless cycle. at its axis.and hopefully with this structural metaphor I have helped shed light on that intriguing recursive quality that this suicide letter began with))))) and in the middle of the word.59 artificer and my art is a form of artifice but the artifact of artifiction that I make should seem as though it occurred naturally or organically. the womb and the tomb ((although I don’t know which exactly is which. as I like to call it)))) so that this word though very abstract is also very personal))) and it works for me but sometimes I have trouble explaining it to others)) and it’s easier to imagine the birth of numbers if you’ve already . “MB” ((((nicely mbedded in the word (((((like these nifty nested parentheticals which we could go on with ad ((((((absurdum?)))))) infinitum but won’t.” and my initials. lately I’ve been using the word “twomb” (((a combination of “tomb... make it into a blank page ready to be written upon. and/or a zero. Once she felt that sense of blankness she opened her eyes and read: Zero and Infinity are like the darkness before dawn and after dusk whence numbers are born and go back to in death.” “womb. She put the letter on the end table.. a circle. an o.. or the zero-egg. She closed her eyes and tried to clear her mind. But I’ve babbled up a library already so before it tips over I’ll stop preambling and let the work speak for itself.” the number “two. . like it sprang effortlessly from within out into the light after germinating in the dark underground of my so(i/u)l.

I just don’t get it. delivering them out of the oceanwomb of the undifferentiated. although the difference is negligible insofar as the one differentiates infinitely within itself anyway) but once you’ve got the primordinal the rest of the numbers are born of an ineluctable dialectic: once you’ve got the One (something) and the Zero (everything else) you also have the metaphenomenological membrane for giving them skin.” and then turned on the t.. then that singularity would have no time or space or causality (as we understand them) so that you can’t even properly ask where or when or how consciousness (or the cosmos) happened.. she’d grown more perplexed with every word. .60 imagined zero and infinity already. we’re trying to do it without that binary a priori. all is an undifferentiated ocean of light. and consciousness is that dark spark that ignites contrast. in illo tempore. creating twoness in its relation to the Oneness of the Zero state with the enveloping membrane and the abstracting mind being threeness and fourness perhaps respectively perhaps inversely perhaps interchangeably.. took some deep breaths and sighed. knitting her brows and scrunching her forehead. but we’re trying to do it without that. whence inevitably springs Mind’s endless dialectic of darkness and light.and then the rest practically takes care of itself… So. in the womb of singularity. The thing I can’t figure out is: if in the beginning there was an undifferentiated singularity. But that comes later. to recapitulate: in the beginning.. said: “I’m sorry Manuel.v... and watched for a . She lay down on the couch and closed her eyes. before consciousness. So what I want to know is: What am I supposed to ask? As she’d read the excerpt. now her head and her eyes ached.

where Arthur still sat. A faint grin crossed Arthur’s face. scribbling furiously.” he said meekly. but he didn’t react.” she said. “Asshole. “Bye.” and looked up. Arthur.” without irony.” “Okay.61 while. but a little common courtesy never hurt. She sighed and began looking around for her clothes. hoping that it would bring her back to reality “Reality” was the last word in the book. “Arthur. looking up. gathering them. I just don’t get it. She shook her head. she didn’t need to be patronized or fawned over. then sighed and said: “I’m sorry. She cleared her throat conspicuously.” she said. her head ached. She put on her shoes and her jacket and said: “I’m going home. Brit unscrunched her forehead and unknitted her brow. He plunged back into the whiteness and blazed his black trail. He said: “I’m sorry. she closed her eyes and took slow deep breaths. . She walked out.” he said abstractedly. After a minute she went out into the living room. so she walked over and put the notebook back where he’d had it. “Look at me? Could you just look at me and talk to me like you give a shit? Is it so much to ask after I let you stick your dick in me?” This finally got his attention. It wasn’t like she wanted special attention.” “Bye. his eyes pink and wet in their sockets like newborn babes.

and knew someone from their hometown who knew everybody in town. or none of the sane people anyway. . So he puts his hood up. which had broken down only a few blocks away. He’d been walking from Finnegan’s house back to Mike’s truck. that’s who he sees. but sitting there in the dead truck with Mike had begun to get uncomfortable. when no one walks the streets. That week in Juarez had been like a dream… …and then on this night. He hadn’t really been sure how Finnegan would have been able to help. He’d never thought that he’d see Geraldo again. There was another man there he did not recognize. Suddenly sitting in the truck with Big Mike doesn’t seem so bad. He never would have let Jamie and Jim talk him into ripping Geraldo off if he’d known that Geraldo was a fucking psycho. his heart pounds. Bobby couldn’t help but shudder when he’d seen Stevie Salazar with Geraldo. walking head-down. the blood throbs in his ears. He’d pulled up his hood and hid in it. Mike was under the hood of the truck. Fucking Stevie. When he got back to the intersection. headlights on and country music coming out the window.62 13. Everybody’s friend. and a truck behind Mike’s truck with its motor running. Fortunately he’d seen them first.

” .” Bobby said. We’re gonna throw in a new alternator asap. not bothering to hide his indifference.” Mike said. Ken here -. this is Ken. this is Bobby.” “What?” Bobby asked. “Well.” “I’m back. You stay here and watch the truck. They turned around. we got a busted alternator and a buncha fuckin more accounts to plow.” Bobby said. Ken.63 The unknown man said: “Yyyyup. It’s definitely the alternator. “Oh.” Bobby said. “Let’s roll.” Ken said.” “I knew this would happen.” The man said: “God damn fuckin dumbass cuntwad…” “Jamie wasn’t home. “Okay. Me and Ken are gonna go to his garage and get one.oh. Ken?” “Yyyyup. Don’t worry.” “Okay. You ready. and spat some black tobacco spit into a white section of snow. Fuckin fucked to hell. “Never mind. Bobby. Forget it. you’re still on the clock. Mike said: “Speak of him and he appears. “Fuckin bad luck charm.” Mike said.

Like shooting stars were angels and falling stars were devils. He thought about the two shooting stars he’d seen. trying not to think about Geraldo. One night. He gave up. He wondered if there was a difference between shooting stars and falling stars. he wondered if they were signs. He thought that maybe there was. He stood beside the truck and looked up: endless sky stippled with stars.” They got into Ken’s truck and drove off into the night. . Maybe. Bobby stood there watching them disappear into the darkness. whether or not he and Stevie had been on their way to Finnegan’s. or whether they’d come back this way while he waited here all alone… It was so lonely out. He knew that Lucifer had been a fallen star. But then he couldn’t help but think to himself that they already were. Maybe they would. He wondered what it would be like if all the stars fell at once. He tried not to think about it. Maybe one day or night soon devils would walk the earth. he tried to count them but there were too many.64 “Let’s do.

Stevie knew someone was in there: he could hear music. He hadn’t been feeling well at all since Jim Daniels’ house. and he said “yeah. He stopped knocking and cocked his head. Like Geraldo was brujo. Again. alleyways. . the music played on.65 14. Geraldo knocked harder. to see if he could see what was going on in his brain – if it was gears and sprockets or tubes and circuits or scorpions and dust devils and antic tarantulas or what. “You hear music?” But Stevie was looking at him. He could’ve gotten away. There’d been a hundred places where he could have escaped. Nothing had turned out the way he’d expected. Or do. people’s yards… he knew the city well.” and after he spoke he got a glimpse into Geraldo’s brain when his ear opened briefly to swallow the wor(l)d. They stood at the front door. and maybe find a bottle big enough to hold enough liquor to drink to forget what he’d already seen and done. Stevie felt like screaming or running but he just stood there. Now he was afraid of what Geraldo might make him witness. and Geraldo didn’t. had done to him. send it all spiraling madly out past the four winds into the nowheres of the world. Still could get away. it was like Geraldo had him under a spell. into his ear. He thought that if he could get inside the house that the music might help him feel real. Sidestreets. and he saw a tornado in the darkness there that sought to disintegrate everything. been complicit in and witnessed. He’d been feeling more and more unreal.

. go! get help. he did not know where to go. Bobby did not move but kind of jumped with his eyes. He told himself don’t fall and he did not fall. his blood thawing. what to do. He did not know where to go. and it felt like his chest might burst. quickly. and some small thing inside him finally broke. even the cops. He ran and ran. and yet his heart beat the harder for it. it was as if his blood had frozen and now held his body in place like a second skeleton. He ran right up to him. like a wild beast thrashing at the ribs of its cage. It was Bobby Ojaque. he thought to himself. now move. but it didn’t work. now run. and his legs began to burn as he flew down the road and into the snowy night. you have to. he felt like he was going to burst into flame like a shooting star. and meant to tell Bobby everything that needed to be done. a cage within. Bobby asked him: “What?” He looked at Bobby with crazed imploring eyes. whom to tell. Stevie said “please…” again and then huffed and puffed some more. if you don’t run now you might not get another chance – you know you want to. bolting off down the steps and sprinting away. and he collapsed into a weeping heap in the street. he came to a crossroads where a man was standing by a truck. he ran. He even said “don’t move a muscle” and Stevie managed to say “okay” which actually required the movement of several muscles and was almost more than he could manage. but run! NOW! or by the end of the night he might own your soul completely! And finally. He was glad when Geraldo told him to stay in the front while he checked all the windows and the back door. and then stood there frozen as Geraldo went off high-stepping in the deep snow and disappeared around the curved adobe corner of Finnegan’s casita. Once he’d disappeared Stevie felt himself loosening up a little. tell someone. Stevie said “please…” and then huffed and puffed and leaned with his hands on his bended knees just trying to breathe. Now. he did.66 He tried to move but could not. Bobby stood there with a scared confused look. He said to himself be careful not to slip and he did not slip.

67 Bobby said: “Stevie?” .

Ash. Maya lay down on the carpet with her knees up and her feet flat. so she wouldn’t be letting him out. and the lights off and lit some candles and incense. and probably take him with her to snuggle. Bob Dylan on the stereo: Blonde on Blonde: Visions of Johanna. he could tell by her breathing. he often felt a deep need to roam in the night. Maya made a drink. inhaling as the sleeper exhales.v. though. With her hair splayed out almost circular like a halo made of shade around her head. (Cats have been this way since the beginning. He looked at her face and began to purr. even if he woke her up she would just sloth off to bed or the couch.) But Maya was asleep. Bob Dylan sang: Ain’t it just like the night To play tricks when yer tryin to be so quiet? They lay together thus for a while in a position reminiscent of the old legends where cats steal our souls as we sleep: they lay on their chests. That happened sometimes. It was like there were happy little pistons pumping inside him.68 15. Being not merely nocturnal but noctophiliac. appropriating the pneuma. . After Chris left. The little gray cat strolled languidly over and climbed up and lay sphinxwise on her chest. stretching the moments out into long and awkward surrealisms. his thin little forepaws between her breasts. he watched it on the wall. After the movie things had gotten kind of awkward. It made the silence unbearable. had a yen for adventure. He enjoyed the way that the candlelight flickered and played. turned the t. Maya enjoyed the music and the gloom. Ash wandered in.

Mommy wants you inside. disappearing and reappearing briefly in the air in a cold white flare glittering. looking to see where he’d gone.and then leaping a few more times before disappearing into the little privet hedge by the driveway.. little clouds of dust puffing up as mice scattered in every direction. He slinked down off of her and over to the sliding glass door and he looked out onto the dark snowy yard. And he did. through Jim Daniels’ yard to his toolshed and under.. in the snow even. stomping the snow off of her boots beneath the yawning awning and then reaching. She didn’t know if Maya wanted to keep him inside at night because of the snow. now was the time to roam: to venture: to live. burrowing briefly through the white darkness and coming out through the crumble to the snowless and cobwebby dirt place under the shed. soaring acrocat-parabolic and down into the white. she’d seen Ash outside before. . seeing also his own faint reflection like a phantom Ash hovering transparent in the glass. Brit appeared then like an apparition in the glass.. leaping from white darkness through dark light into white darkness after a brief rest in the little privet hedge. She stood half in and half out.69 But now was not for snuggling. hopping and piping: “oh!” as Ash leapt past her outwards as she walked in. some sneaking into an old log under the front . him but not him..” But he did not reappear. and she was pretty sure that he could take care of himself. but he’d disappeared into a hedge after bounding across the yard in great leaps. so she stepped all the way in and slid the door closed behind her. sliding the door open. and he wondered whether these glass doors might not open and close on other worlds beyond cats' knowing. It wasn’t too big a deal. Brit called to him: “Ash! Ashy – get back in. c’mon back in. into the snow and out of the snow and into and out of the snow.

cocked his head back and looked at the moon. He held it in place with his forepaws and watched it and waited for it to slowly emerge from its daze. purrfervor. All he had to do now was pounce on it. They are solitary creatures. one unlucky one. and he did so. smally purry twinklies in the vast black of night. right out in the middle of the street where there were no growly cars that wanted to pounce on him. dazed but alive under dead Jim Daniels’ toolshed. because he’d already eaten and wasn’t getting hungry again. and it came alive again and scampered away.. or if not actual footprints purr se then a little furrow in the snow that Stevie and Geraldo had made walking up to (and into ((and murdering)) and out of) and away from Jim Daniels’ front door. allowing it to think that it was free or had the chance to be. and the moon looked back at . he left his punchy playmate there. running head-first into a corner post and knocking itself silly. pouncing on it again and holding it while it got ready to try and scurry free again. just had the feeling. but very gently. but eventually.70 ramp. then waited until it began to struggle and loosened his hold a little. Feeling as if he’d arrived at some purry holy land. He wandered aimlessly. but he did not allow it beyond paw’s reach before swatting it. Leaping from white through dark to white until he reached some big people footprints on Jim’s front walk. This went on for a while. He wondered if he was the first cat to feel this way. purre and simple. he wondered if this happened to all cats and whether that’s why they’re so secretive and recalcitrant and so often walk alone: because they know that they are never really alone. Enjoying this quiet unbusy world that the snow made.. like stars. part of some greater unity though somehow separated from all of it by a little furry layer of skin. and it was fun. He sat back in a dark shadow. saving him some work. but he did not know many other cats. he could not know if he was the first cat ever struck by this. keeping an eye out for other little animals. although he did not know the name for this feeling. finding none and enjoying himself nonetheless. some burrowing into the snow. and he thought that he was. guided by some invisible paw. He followed this furrow out to the street where he could walk freely. and ventured back out into the yard. and just one.

licking him all over (for while the . He came upon a truck in the road but it was silent. He looked up through his paw and his claws were crescent moons and he wondered if that moon was just a claw from a paw of a black cat hidden slyly up there in the night sky or if maybe all cats’ claws were made from slivers taken from the moon. (His mother Smokey had always harbored an ardent hatred for dogs. Two men stood by it making sounds at each other. He felt sorry for one of them. he walked by them unnoticed as they talked at each other Myow miaou meeoaul meow miou meyou as he left them behind in the cool bluish light. But he did not stop long to ponder. Ash had not known her for long but he had seen her scratch a couple of dogs’ noses in that brief time before Maya came for him. so that he could rest his head on the ground while he sucked). and whenever he tried to nurse with the other kittens he’d be sent tumbling helplessly away. He held his paw up in front of his face and let his claws out and shifted himself a little. showing him colors that no one else would ever know. He could not play with the other kittens when they played. But at least they’re not as bad as dogs. His kittenhood had been brief but he remembered it vividly. He didn’t know. Vile base barbarous vulgar dogs. Sometimes his mother would lavish attention on him. He wondered why the truck was not purring or growling. and he walked slow-purry smooth down the road feeling slick and slinky like the king daddy pimp of night on earth. He walked with it drooping down almost dragging on the ground and could not carry it too far with his runty little body before he had to rest. He wasn’t surprised that they hadn’t noticed him: people never notice anything because they’re always making sounds at each other mrknao mwow reaou mnemoau meeahouw. and his mother would purr and it made his eyes vibrate in their sockets. He’d been the runt. They did not see him. who had the dark green gloomyglow aura of jinx upon him. not knowing. So when they went to play. and joined thus in eidetic commoonion they glowed there in the night.71 him. seventh son in the seventh litter of the seventh year of Smokey’s long and fecund life. that was never good. he’d go and nurse at the nipple of his choice (usually a low one. and it felt wonderful. In the first days after he’d been born he could not hold his head up. its eyes gleaming the way cars and trucks did at night like cats. didn’t think that he would ever know. And he purred.

And wary of the dark man.. watching t. A dark man standing in between two houses. Lost in his reveries.. who had no aura. (with “stars in his eyes” as the older cats used to say). eating tuna. .72 other kittens had been learning their hygiene he was having trouble with the simplest maneuvers of his big heavy head and did not learn to clean himself until he was almost six months old) and telling him stories of ancient Egypt. 16. It had a little boy’s face next to it. occasionally licking snow off of himself. or was the color of night. and listening to music maybe. looking up at one of the houses’ eyes. Most of the time he wanted nothing more out of life than to just live with Maya. bright dark bright dark bright dark bright dark bright.v. of Bast and Sekhmet and golden cat-coffins. The man made harsh quiet sounds at the boy who kept winking the light at him. but he loved Maya very much. water and glass.. he wondered aimlessly until he came upon a curious situation. He missed his mother sometimes. She’d tell him he was descended from gods and pharaohs and that all of the far away twinklies in the night skies are other cats looking down at us from some other place like those places hinted at by the images in mirrors. where a light was winking. sleeping in sunbeams and mousing under Jim Daniels’ shed. He was especially intrigued by the whispery sounds and the winking light. Possibly snuggling. He sat there for a while watching.

“Who’s taking care of you?” “Nobody.” Geraldo said angrily. It was almost like a dream. how you can’t stop things. That’s so stupid.” “I’m not stupid. rather than have Geraldo find him.” Geraldo protested. hoping to confound him by calling his bluff. He looked back over at Finnegan’s and saw that Stevie had disappeared from his post by the front door. Geraldo knew that he shouldn’t be getting caught up arguing with a little boy but he couldn’t help it. He looked around to make sure that no lights went on or curtains parted in any of the windows of the surrounding houses. “If you don’t have any parents. He’d probably be happier if he did come back. “I just don’t have anywhere to put them.” the boy said. Like life. Then got angry.73 “Quit jackassin. then who’s in there with you?” The boy was too young to be home alone and there was a car in the driveway that had the snow cleaned off of it. Maybe he would come back. But instead of being dumbstruck or begging him not to ring the doorbell the boy just teased him more: “Why’re you wearing sunglasses? It’s night out. “So if I go and press on your doorbell like five times I won’t be bothering anyone since it’s only you in there?” he asked the boy. They’re really nice glasses – I don’t have the case. an—” “—Well where is it?” “What?” . Geraldo winced at the unexpected volume. in a loud whisper. not even bothering to whisper anymore.

He'd murdered children before. what the fat kid’s and Finnegan’s houses would look like in flames as he watched them from the street. Geraldo thought to himself. they tell you: ‘Geraldo? He got things under control.” the kid said.” “No I didn’t. “You ask anybody who knows me.. “Turn that thing off!” he yelled. watch the flames lick the darkness and laugh like fire only knows… He jabbed the small luminous circle of the doorbell violently with his thumb and then took out a pack of .. his chubby moon face disappearing from the window. which was very irritating.. I can’t believe this. “You probably thought everybody would think you were cool. oh. “Did you wet your pants?” he called down giddily. whispers saying things. falling over backward. high-stepping around to the front door. stupid?” “I don’t know. No I don't. He swatted helplessly at the beam of light as it moved back and forth over his face as if it were a buzzing bug. arcing briefly through the sky and back in through the window. the flashlight beam reeling up from Geraldo’s crotch and past his face. You look like an idiot. But this boy was not Stevie. giving Geraldo the fisheye.74 “The case? Why don’t you have the case. The boy moved the light beam down to the crotch of Geraldo’s pants.” “Your friend ditched you..” Geraldo said. “Are your balls soggy?” He erupted in a fit of laughter. I don’t usually lose things. how he should have killed Stevie at Jim Daniels’.” the boy laughed.’” This was the kind of thing that he often said to Stevie and always seemed to impress him. “Yeah right. O! how he wanted to set the whole block on fire. Images flashing in his mind. waving the light beam back and forth over Geraldo’s face.

the drummer. Janet’s black bra was still showing. he saw the shiny doorknob begin to turn and he knew that it was the angry man coming through. . He could just snap his neck. which the new babysitter should have had locked but didn’t. although if nobody came to the door he might just let himself in. buttercup." Dirty Dave Jobb.v. He made sure to be very very quiet as he hid there behind the now fully open door as the angry stranger came into his house and Jumpin Jack Jobb sang the last words of "Clocksucker’s Blues": “Time’s up. was on. Only take a second. He rang the doorbell again. so he made a quick diagonal step so that he would be concealed behind the opening door. There was a Jobbs video on Mtv2. When he finally reached for the door. The t. But what fun is that really. "Clocksucker’s Blues. quietly across the living room carpet toward the front door. The doorbell had rung three times already and it rang again as he crept quickly. That light had (almost) gotten under his skin. light danced on them. gesturing lewdly at a ridiculously conspicuous bulge in his tight leather pants.v. stood at a bar in a club talking to a hot video chick. * The ladder came down into the hall where it opened up into the living room. The bell had rung again as he’d stopped to watch. expecting an adult to answer.75 cigarettes and lit one. At that moment to little Ralphie the entire world seemed to be composed of nothing but silence and fear. on her shoulder.” and the music abruptly stopped. Pop. Janet and Mitch lay slumped into each other sleeping as the flickering t. The whorishly clad prop/woman put her hand up to her cheek and made her garish red mouth into a big O. He could feel his mouth getting dry and the hairs on the back of neck going up. He figured he’d just tell on the kid and get him in trouble. He really did want to kill the kid.

76 .

according to Granny he was better off that way. He'd lived with Granny since he was nine or ten years old. against his own will he called back to her: "Yeah Granny. until his mother died. Sometimes things got crowded. Usually at this time Granny was asleep. “Chriiiiiiis? Is that you?” Just ignore her. I'm home. But it was no use. get a beer and go to your room. His parents had split up very early and he barely remembered his biological father. and most of the time (like when you’re trying to ask her if she’s the one who left the milk out on the counter or spilled juice on the carpet or left the stove burning) she was deaf as a goddam treestump. He walked past it without stopping. hoping he'd remember to get it later. don't say anything. widowing his stepfather. it's me.77 17. reminding himself to make sure to remind himself to remember to do it later. just shaking his head and cursing." and began whispering invective at himself under his breath as he closed the door. but never particularly difficult. just tiptoe to the kitchen. On his way to Granny's room he found some spilt tomato juice and a glass lying on the carpet in the hall. They'd been a multigenerational household. who moved back . She won't even know. but if there was one thing in this world she could still hear it was the teenytiny mouseling squeak of the old hinge on the front door (that he’d been meaning to fix for the past year but hadn’t but not because he’d been “busy”) as Chris opened it as gently as he could. She probably calls out like that all hours of the day and night when you're not home.

first I was wondering if you'd pick up my remote control." he grumbled.v. If that was all he had to do he’d’ve come out a winner." she said. convinced that death was immanent and afraid of dying alone. and Chris's mother had had their garage made into a little threeroom apartment (bedroom. grabbing them with her gums and said: "Hullo dear. on and a glass of Jim Beam at the ready. sitting room). she’d told Chris’s mother she wanted to move in. Here you go. "I dropped it by accident and I can't bend over to get it because of my back and my knees. then asked desultorily: "How's it going Granny?" She closed her mouth down around her dentures. She sat in her reclining chair with the t. She smiled at him in that creepy way she had of peeling back her lips and letting her dentures come off of her gums and sit lopsided on her tongue in the bottom of her mouth. This was bad. thank you dear." That wasn't so bad. Chris's uncle ("Sneaky") Pete was full of theories as to how much money she had and how he was going to get some of it. you're looking well. "Oh. Can you help me with something?" "Of course. "Whaddaya need?" "Well. When she'd first moved in with Chris and his mother twenty years ago she'd been eighty years old and. Granny had paid for it – she'd been rumored to be in possession of some vast sum that nobody in the family knew anything about but which was often speculated upon and spoken of (though never in her presence of course). Nice talk like that was never a closer – it was . They still talked to on the phone once in a while. bathroom." she said.78 east. picking up the remote control and handing it to her." he said... He stood in her doorway. He winced. you're so kind. By a lot. "Sure thing.

He turned back around slowly. She’d bought many things for him.. without irony. even though the liquor store would be open for a while yet.” “I was wondering if you could pick me up a bottle of Jim Beam from the liquor store. “Yeah. Granny.” he said mopily. "There was a blizzard.” he said. I know. "It's no trouble I guess. if that's it I guess I'll be seein ya. familiar with his m. “Why. Have mercy.." “Oh. which was something she said whether she knew what you were talking about or not. He turned to flee but before he could escape she added: "Well when you get back you should clean up the bathroom.” she said. that..o. He was in denial.79 a setup. She was always buying things for people.. He sometimes wondered if she’d bought his soul somewhere along the way without him noticing.” which was true. Then said: “But I bought you that enormous truck. But he couldn't admit it to himself. knowing that she would not.” “I dunno.” and he quickly turned to go. I had some stewed prunes that went through me and I missed the toilet so there's . looking down at his shoes. what happened?” she asked. I should probably go now to get to the liquor store before it closes. She was very often oblivious to the goings-on of the world outside. “Wait!” she cried. hoping that she’d rescind her request. it’s pretty rough out there. He said: "Okay then. sighed: “Jesus H Chris." he said. beating a hasty retreat.

Fine. just taking it and driving west.. .. "And a cup of tea. and made her English Muffins and marmalade and tea." "Kinda somethin." she added. "-. "You're very kind. please dear. defeated.and please make me an English Muffin with marmalade before you go --" "-. drink the bourbon as he went. shuffling off to the kitchen muttering endless empty promises to himself.Okay.. "You got it. trying to leave. Right into the Pacific Ocean. "Thank you dear.. eventually driving his truck off of the cliffs at the western edge of California. Wouldn’t it be nice." he said. thinking about getting a bottle of Jim Beam and not coming back. driving as fast and as far west as he could." he said miserably.80 some shit on the floor and the wall and the side of the tub --" "-." he said. knowing now that that was the end of it.” he mumbled." she said.

as did Ralphie. Things were getting curiouser and curiouser. He was very curious to see what the rest of the house was like. Fuckin drunken little kids. Teenagers. not yet aware of the little gray cat who sat a foot from his foot. but then another music video came on t. He didn’t know how much more tension he could take. She stirred slightly in her sleep and murmured a wordless haiku. The winter wind went over Mitch’s skin and jostled Julia a little. picking up the ambient signals in the room) like everything should be quiet and still. unseen but unconcealed (now that the door had been closed) just a few feet behind him. and Ralphie made his move for the den. the silence seemed like a soap bubble that kept getting bigger and was bound to burst.81 18. Geraldo watched the kids on the couch to see if they’d wake up. and made it. like antennae. He wanted to scream. So he kept very still right where he was. But right now it felt (his whiskers.v. if Mitch and Julia would wake up. The moment was fat with uncertainty. and who would win if Mitch and the angry man got in a fight. To Ralphie. He hid huddling under his father’s mahogany desk with the swivel chair pulled in front. He was focused on the angry man and wondering whether he could make it to the den without being detected. out of a technical difficulty dead air lacuna – and it was loud. Ash had come in unnoticed behind Geraldo. it gave Geraldo a start. Beyond the arm of the couch and Julia’s shell-toe Adida he could see an ugly orange ladder slanting down . a small room off of the close corner of the living room. Geraldo stood still too. unknown house full of new and unknown people was exciting for him. This new. – in media res.

but he really didn’t feel like checking them because he didn’t want to crawl through that cramped space. and it was like he'd unzipped the man's body. (He’d once killed a man in Las Cruces just for asking him what he did.. a souled person’s body. because he came without touching himself. But on the other hand.what do you do for a living?" – "this.82 out of the ceiling." hooking his little pocket knife into the man's navel. He said. now that he’d gone this far he wasn’t particularly fond of the idea of just giving up. ((". It was a small room and the ceiling was low. if not younger...) Sometimes he felt an unbearable spiritual emptiness. in a loud whisper: “Hey kid. come on out. Don’t make me come lookin for you. a little street urchin in Mexico City who’d tried to pick his pocket. and drank their blood: he was seeking communion: he thought that a piece of another person's. which is why he often ate his victims. But he wasn’t that crazy anymore. the redblue stomach emerging like the skullless head of some boneless mutant baby in a grotesque parody of birth. if he nurtured it. raped the girl or the boy or boys. That would be where the kid was – up the ladder. opening up and flowering into the garden that souled people seemed to carry inside of them and that he often so overwhelmingly felt that he lacked. either.. I’ll be pretty . There were a couple of possibilities. might germinate in his inner darkness and eventually. The attic was dimly lit by an old lamp. putting them carefully in his jacket pocket. That had been one of the good ones. dragging down and pushing in. so he thought he’d give that a try. his head just above the floor like a periscope just above the surface of the sea.)) And he’d once killed a kid who was about the same age as this fat kid. He walked through the living room to the ladder in the hall and climbed up just enough so that he could look around the attic. there didn’t seem to be many places that the fat kid could be hiding... The man looked down and saw his insides falling slowly out of his body from the slit in his lower abdomen. grow into a soul. But in between doing and not doing lies the word.. which he reluctantly did.. He had to take his sunglasses off to see. scanning. Back in the day he’d’ve killed the kids and burnt the house down.

the floor walls and ceiling were all hard bare wood and the acoustics of the room were very hard and bright. thinking to himself somebody will suffer for this. and aluminum cans spilling. he’d noticed that his sibilants sounded loud and hissy. so he thought that he ought to be able to hear the boy breathing. but why would the fat kid knock the drying rack off of the counter? He saw the cat and he heard the voice from different directions at the same time: the little gray cat hidden behind a table leg.83 pissed off if I got to crawl around up in this dustyass coffin space. Startled. full of dishes. But he saw no culprit. A trashcan cornucopia. “Ralphie? Ralphie? What happened?” trying hard to sound grown up and authoritative but hopelessly drunk and still nine tenths asleep. He’d expected to see someone he could grab and punish for making him bump his head and bite his lip. a slow and heavy dragging drawl. hurried down the hall to the kitchen. looking up warily. especially since fat people are often loud breathers. a female voice. it sounded like a lot of china and glass breaking. But then he thought that it might have been the little fat kid not hiding in the attic but in the kitchen. tasted his blood: iron and salt. He bit his lower lip. had tipped off of the counter and caught on its way down the handle of a plastic garbage can full of aluminum cans so that it had toppled over and lay there now with the cans spilling out of it and the shards all around it. climbed clumsily down the ugly orange ladder. For a couple of moments he stayed very still and listened to the silence. Judging by the sound of it. In the kitchen he discovered a pile of shattered shards where the drying rack.. it seemed .. So he listened.” but he couldn’t think of what to say after that. But if you come out now I’ll. he started. and you don’t want me pissed off. There came a clamor then from another room. and the voice from the living room back down the hall. unintentionally threw his head back and bumped it on the side of the trap-door.

On the other side of the kitchen was the back door. coming from the living room. Oh well. and before opening the back door he opened the refrigerator to see if they had anything good in there (that fat kid had to be getting fat on something).sibilants.. watching him.. He wondered if they knew he was there. He heard voices whispering now. he crouched down and reached out to grab the cat but Ash scratched him on the hand across his rattlesnake tattoo. he thought. He took the bucket and he opened the back door and stepped back out into the night. He tiptoed through the wreckage quickly but with great care. plosives -. If they would call the police. . He turned back: the cat was still there. He looked back down the hall but couldn’t see into the living room. He stood there sucking on his hand feeling vaguely absurd.84 likely that she might just fall right back to sleep.two or maybe three people talking. He could not distinguish any words but he heard voice sounds -. food or beer or something and. He took a drumstick out of the bucket and bit into it. Ash took off from under the table and sped between Geraldo’s legs and out of the kitchen in a gray blur down the hall. It was noticeably warmer than it had been when he’d gone in through the front. Extra crispy – his favorite flavor. He pointed at it and growled: “you. fricatives. By the time he noticed the little gray cat flying out past him it was already too late to catch it. smiling broadly.” scowling. Geraldo recoiled and cursed and put his hand in his mouth. he pulled out a bucket of fried chicken.

"I'm sorry. But he had to try. “I’m so sorry.” Bobby prayed. but as time passed Bobby thought it more and more likely that Geraldo would show up. the I’m so sorry Jims. "Just be cool. "We have to get away from here. Mike and Ken had been gone a long time. He put his arms on the steering wheel. and Bobby had already tried to ask him if he was talking ." Stevie whimpered. but eventually he’d managed to piece together from Stevie’s incoherent ramblings that he was trying to get away from Geraldo.. “I’m so sorry Jim. leaned forward. "I didn't want to..” and erupted into shuddering sobs. I. It was like he had blown a fuse or something. "Dios mio we need some tequila right about now. Stevie wasn't getting any better. The down muffled the noise of the scream but it did not muffle the pain of it.85 19.” Stevie mumbled into the sleeve of his jacket." "Just take some deep breaths and calm down buddy. biting into the puffy sleeve of his jacket and screaming. They sat in the truck. which was relieving." Bobby said. Everything’s okay." which is hard to say when you don’t believe it." Stevie said. Stevie had said all this already. His eyes were bugging and darting and his lower lip was trembling.. his vision blur. What he really wanted was for Mike and Ken to come back. buried his face in his arms and began to sob. Bobby thought he’d brought Geraldo with him.. When Stevie had first shown up. the pain was very sharp and sad and it cut into something somewhere deep inside Bobby and his lip began to tremble. kept saying it over and over.

” Bobby had his hands pressed into his eyes like he was trying to shove tears back in. ... and then after he’d made sure that there was no one there he went to put his head down again... He put his arm around Stevie’s shoulders and leaned against him. Bobby put his elbows on his knees and for a while there was just the sobbing and the shuddering in the big silence of the night... He looked into the rearview mirror and he saw Jim Daniels’ eyes there glaring at him.. Kissssss your boyfriend with my blood on your lipsssssss. and all Stevie wanted to do was get out of the truck and run as far as he could as fast as he could until he burst into flame or died of exhaustion or anything really. turgid . friend? Buddy? Pal? What your friend Geraldo called it?” Stevie pulled his head up and looked over at Bobby. closing his eyes and praying quietly to himself when someone hiss at him: Judassssss! and he started and yelped and sat bolt upright and looked at Bobby but Bobby was just sitting there with his face in his hands rocking back and forth slightly and then he heard it again: Youuuuuuu vampire friend Judassssss kissssss me drink my bloooooood. burning darkly with pain and hate. so he made himself say: huhuhuhuhuh he muhmuhmuhmuh made me kiss. Bobby had his face in his hands and it was obvious that he hadn’t been the one who spoke. even though he knew that there wouldn’t be..” and then stopped to take a big breath and wipe his nose on the sleeve of his jacket and shuddering and sniffling he said “with Jim’s blood on our lahlahlah. just cried into his arm.. and he didn’t seem to have heard either.. Stevie didn’t say for a while. post traumatic shock zaps like electroshock convulsions.86 about or to Jim Daniels and what had happened to Jim Daniels but he’d stopped doing it because every time he’d said Jim’s name Stevie would fall all to pieces again. but it did not give him relief. Now Bobby wanted to scream too and Stevie was falling apart worse and worse like an old scarecrow in the rain but he was still trying to speak because he had to tell someone this thing that he had inside or it would devour him from the inside out. he could feel how Stevie’s body jerked with tremors and spasms of pain. and then he looked up and he knew now who it was.but after a while an other voice asked Stevie: Why don’t you just tell him? Remember.” Jim hissed at him.. but he could not move – he sat transfixed. not only to assuage Stevie’s suffering but also his own.. let him fuuuuuuuuuhhhhhck. so Stevie turned and looked to his other side to see if there was someone at the window.

He asked Bobby jokingly: “Did you miss us?” Bobby said yes without irony. but no.87 with terror. Bobby felt a wave of relief flow through him and for a few seconds his knees went rubbery and he almost collapsed right there in the street. lungs and heart and up through his throat and out in a haunting high-pitched banshee keening wail that snapped Bobby Ojaque out of his half-sleep and out of the truck. and he tried hard to look harder and became so absorbed in trying to see that distant darkling figure that he didn’t even notice Ken’s truck pulling up behind him until he heard the country music coming out when the doors opened. you feel stupid or crazy and you have to say something but you can't say anything and . and in the distance below the clouds he saw a silhouette differentiate out of the gloom. and he felt the scream rising up from the bottom of his guts near his asshole. Mike smiled at him and handed him a foam cup of coffee. but Bobby did not think it was an infant. carrying something cradled in the crook of his arm like a man might carry an infant. Overhead a herd of clouds come in from the horizon slowly swallowing the stars like phagocytes eating germs. And you sit there or you stand there and the world keeps turning and the stars wheel slowly as the clouds come swallowing in. He let out a long sigh and it felt like something went out of him. He turned around. Mike and Ken were getting out of the truck. but he believed it to be Geraldo. Mike and Ken laughed at what they took to be irony. something heavy that had weighed him down. a man walking towards them. He couldn’t tell at that distance in that darkness who the man was. some corruption that had been purged. watching to see if the windshield or windows would crack. rising up through his intestines. He shut the door quickly and. stomach. He smiled. And Ken asked sarcastically: “Anything exciting happen while we were gone?” Now Bobby understood how Stevie had felt. what it’s like when you feel like you have to tell somebody something that’s really important but you can’t make the words in your mind for your mouth even it really is a matter of life and death and you spend your whole life talking about things that don't really matter but this really matters and you have to tell someone but you can’t make the words in your mind for your mouth.

how to say it. And you wonder what's become of the world. You wonder what’s become of your mind. and there are no words for your mouth and you wonder what's become of your mouth. The world is curved and spinning and that's how it's always been and how it always will be but sometimes you realize how warped and dizzy it all is and you wonder if things were always like this or if they changed or are changing and you wonder if it's changed you and you know that it's changed you so much more than you've changed it and you have to tell someone this something very important and you wonder what to say. exactly.88 you wonder. .

shortly after which he fell into a deep sleep in his holding cell. Some of the streets began to flood. melting the snow and evoking from it a slow mist that crept over and around everything. The darkness of the sky was near absolute but for some occasional pulses of lightning like brief blue veins throbbing and fading in dark distances. fallen from the wall of his Golgotha. Bobby and Big Mike put the new (new used anyway) alternator in Mike’s truck and went home while Ken took Stevie to the police station where. A warm wind like a breath coming in from the east and washing over the city. in the bathtub. Midnight was coming again and the clouds had swallowed the moon and all the stars. There had been a lot to tell and it had been fermenting inside him for too long and finally he vomited it all out in one prolonged and painful but relieving heave. Jim Daniels lay broken bloody naked and dead with the now-cold water from the . Several police vehicles and an ambulance were at the crime scene where. flowing down through the foothills of the Sangre de Cristos and west through and under the city and out to the Cibola Canyon arroyo in the flatlands of the west end. out by the airport and the major highways. He told them everything that had happened at Jim Daniels' house. As the rain began to fall more steadily it wore away the snow and as the snow melted the mist grew thicker and midnight was coming and the rain was warm like tears and the trickling streams of the ditches and the arroyos became surging rivers. Anyone who’d seen him sleeping afterward remarked to whomever they might later have spoken with that he seemed almost to glow with a serene and beatific light.89 Book III 20. Soon a rain began to fall and streams began to form in the City of Faith's arroyos and acequia madre (or mother ditch). he managed to calm down and was interrogated. eventually.

. (Maya had screamed. calming. scratched and slapped until. after a kind of climax. but as a way to stay sane enough to perform their duty). screamed. accused and even clawed at Brit. and bullshitted for a while.. got drunk and made up. scary-beautiful. this murder and murder in general.. with his pistol in one hand and a remote control in the other... The officer asked him if he’d seen anything and he said no.. apologizing. switching pens when one runs out and eventually even switching hands when his right cramps into a gnarly clutching claw and writing lefty as he goes on hammering out and twisting out wroughtiron letters. cradling one another.). and they screeched. notebook after notebook after notebook. clawed. crying. whom she’d liked first and a lot. . (. One of them questioned Chris. sad.. while a couple of blocks away Finnegan sleeps drunk and dreamless in his room with spidercrack ceiling and murdered mirror. He and the officer were the same age and remembered one another from high school so they talked about what a shame it was. who sat up in his big monster pickup parked out in front of Maya’s house next door with a bottle of Jim Beam that he did not want to bring back home. In Maya’s house next door. and for letting Ash out with it so snowy. holding one another and playing with each other’s hair. with bits of tile and plaster all over him.90 bathspout pouring over his head.. tears warm like the rain. crying on shoulders.while just across the neighborhood Arthur scribbles furiously in his kinesynaesthetic ecstasy sending sparks in arcs from his dark forge soulfurious letter after letter. they sat exhausted on the floor of Maya’s bedroom. murmuring soft i’m sorries and it’s okays. Maya and Brit got drunk and made up after having had a big fight. hissed. The police came in. comforting. took notes. and even told jokes (though not out of cruelty. for fucking Arthur. and where the wall had given way above him gaping and crumble-white craters like silent-scream mouths choking on their own crushed teeth. page after page.while next door Julia drunkenly reprimands Ralphie and makes him clean up the kitchen. pictures and various samples. while just a couple of blocks away . closer slowly and kissing kisses like warm stars on earth and everything at this moment so happy. ((and Brit knew)). gardengate words and he feels like Haephestuses in the guts the mountain. pointed.

And maybe you are weeping too.. And somewhere in the city there is somebody who hears you. who did not know that she was sleeping in the same room with a murderer but who if she did might say it's okay.v. 21.v. While on the north side of town. No matter who or where you are. The t.. dreaming of dandelions. The mama cat is nursing the mewly kittens in the streaming sunlight on a patch of grass in a large flower garden. close your eyes and listen very hard. rainwet needles glistering in the streetlamp light. because murderers should come to San Miguel in the City of Faith because it is a holy place and can save them – she dreamed of a time when she was very young and had a cat that had kittens. stand very still and stay very quiet. The misty night like a weird music flowing slowly through the city and midnight is coming as Geraldo hates the rain almost as much as he hates little fat kids with flashlights and kittycats' claws and he slowly falls asleep inside a five hundred year-old cathedral in the middle of town. She nursed him at her purry twinkly breast and her milk was a pure and starry light. if you get up and go outside. through the traffic and the rain and the wind you can hear La Llorona weeping. named for San Miguel and made of mud. where strangers were always welcome and he shared its meager space with an old Mexican woman and a great and shaggy goat who also slept. set flickers and outside the heavens are dark. watching t. which he liked for their bitter taste. and wondering when her damn gloomy grandson would be home with her sweet Kentucky bourbon. that he climbed back his mother. far from San Miguel’s. with a doorway but no doors. another old lady sat wide-awake. Dreaming of a tree that grew all the way up to the stars.91 from them there lay a happy little cat curled up on a cushion of pine needles under a Christmaslooking pine tree gently swaying in the warm wet wind. . and the old Mexican woman. too.

(but it was just a theory). The only other times he’d interrupted his writing had been when certain physical eventualities had reared their ugly heads: switching notebooks when one and another and more others were full.92 He left the t.v. and it caused in his bowels a brief sympathetic shudder. he climbs into the toilet in search of it. but he quickly plunged back into the task at hand and resumed scribbling on into the white. on while he wrote – he had a theory that the flickerflow of light coming in through his peripheral vision might induce minor temporal lobe seizures. even switching hands eventually when one became unbearably . and switching pens when one and another ran out of ink. and into a phantasy of a vast body of water with a light shining down through the surface and the bubbles caused by his entry. It had been this.) that he’d accidentally excreted into the toilet in an unavoidable surge of diarrhea brought on by said withdrawal sickness. distracted by an unusual light. possibly giving him visions and giving his writing the qualities of hallucination and prophecy that he desired.. that had distracted Arthur and caused him to look up. He looked up. Trainspotting was on: the scene where Renton crawls down into the dirtiest toilet in Scotland after an opium suppository (the only fix that he’d been able to score that day with withdrawal sickness bearing down. although only very briefly. ergo. the light through the bubbles and the water..

wrathworthy.. wondering if this was how butterflies felt on their first days fresh from the cocoon... knowing that life can be so unbelievably beautiful sometimes.but something was wrong. .. fluttering even. and by some odd coincidence or owing perhaps to fate or luck or divine providence.. he felt as if a great burden had been lifted from him and all was beauty and beatitude. .. he immediately came to the conclusion that this too was a sign and that his experience in these past few minutes had been a sign. or comical. and you’re just sitting there shitting. feeling.. he opened the book to read seemingly at random right to the part where Tyrone Slothrop crawls down into a toilet in search of his lost harmonica and gets lost in a labyrinth of sewers. and occasionally he had to empty himself so he went to the bathroom and on one particular trip to the bathroom right around midnight he realized that he might be in there for a while. God might consider this rather inappropriate. but of course if you experience an epiphany or a revelation of the Truth of His Light (and your own being moving always at the speed of time therein) from within such an unwholesome context as Arthur Bisbee’s filthy bathroom with its metaphysical squalor. drifting dreamily back into the living room thinking. He looked at the couch and then he looked at the door and then he looked at the couch again and the door again and couch again and door again and couch and door and each again in . beaming cherubic..93 cramped. eminently logical man that he was. It was the first time he’d ever seen a light bulb go out in media res instead of when you flip the switch and so. and he fluttered happily along. flying in the air in the light in the garden of the world. He walked.. floating a little.. being in the mood that he was. he pulled out Gravity’s Rainbow. reading about sewage.. he grinned to himself and thought facetiously what a felicitous coincidence – perhaps a sign. so he stopped by a bookcase on the way and. He finished his business and came out of the bathroom emptied and fullfilled. and maybe there really is a God after all.. which he’d always enjoyed reading while evacuating his bowels. and just when the mouth in his mind finished uttering the d in God the light bulb on the ceiling died dead with a faint fizzling sizzle sound. buoyed by his new gnosis.and Arthur said hmmmmm.

Once inside it got visibly agitated and flew into a mad bibliophagous feeding frenzy and. the justification for your previously meaningless existence? He walked over to the door. where it broke through the front double doors after feeling for a while along the windows and walls. afraid to go any closer. He watched his notebooks as they moved each one as a segment of some greater thing interconnected by a weird and viscid mucilaginous integument with hundreds of little black legs made of letters going back and forth. he watched through a window as it crawled along the shelves and bookcases devouring book after book after book after book after book. your testimony to the world that the Word is God made flesh while you’re sitting on the toilet taking a shit and reading Gravity’s Rainbow right at the part where the guy climbs into the toilet and the Truth of His Light is revealed to you and you know that it’s True because He made the lightbulb ironically fizzle out over your head and you understand that it is a symbol and a sign. your soul laid bare. and he sees – does he really see(?) yes(!) he does see – his notebooks out there and no Devil anywhere near. behind it. ... back and forth as it crawled along on metrical feet (and did the letters make any sense or were they just gibberish? it’s hard to tell. And the door was ajar (he’d forgotten to close it and lock it after Brit left) and isn’t it just like the Devil to come and steal your life’s work. your livelihood.. They just weren’t there. but regardless of the syntactic or semantic content the legs functioned as legs at least) and the what can you call it give it a name okay the bookbug or verbwyrm or wyrdworm or bookworm yes bookworm no maybe logopede or alphapede or letterpillar yes the letterpiller crawled down the driveway and out into the street. and well isn’t it just like the Devil to choose right then to deprive you of your One True Thing. opened it and looked out into the darkness and the rain and the mist. searching and feeling and interrogating all over everything. and as it made its way he followed cautiously. At length it arrived at the City of Faith public library.. that warm wet wind washing over him. feeling its way as it went with antennae made from punctuation with question marks at the ends wibbling and waving all around. curiously.94 cartoonish confusion one last time before realizing that something was very wrong and life can be so ugly sometimes and it figures it fucking figures it really does just fucking figure that while I was meeting God in the bathroom the Devil crept in and stole my notebooks off the couch.

but it was okay because the wall was no longer brick but a soft moist moss. watching and waiting to see if anything else would happen. After watching and waiting for a couple more minutes Arthur walked back away from the building and out onto the lawn and sat down there in the nice warm rain.. excreting and crawling until eventually it got too fat to maneuver anymore and thus engorged it simply stopped where it was and seemed to fall into a sleep. the ground began to tremble and the moss grew warm and bright and seemed to breathe. He ran his hand back and forth over it.. eating and growing. and as the building began to reach the point of being completely furred over with moss. sure enough.thing. faintly phosphorescent.. It was like he was petting some huge and sleeping mythical beast – and when he let his hand stop moving and become still he could feel movement under the moss and he wondered what was working within this great and fuzzy. furring over the entire building. and after a while something did. and just as he began to laugh at all of this and think all my life I’ve wondered how it feels to laugh like a Buddh and I think this is a Buddha laugh. And the rain fell harder and the mist got thicker. it also became obscured by the dark whiteness of the mist. Slowly he backed away from it and when the trembling became so severe that he thought that the earth would break open and swallow itself whole there was a great tearing sound . pleasant to the touch.. For a while he just sat there in a daze. much less coming to life and eating all of the books at the City of Faith public library.95 He watched as if hypnotized as it grew bigger and bigger. like attaining mainstream success or attracting the attention of the big Hollywood studios. but he’d never thought of it going beyond that. and as he approached the building the mist got thicker and thicker so that the only way he knew he’d gotten there was by walking right into it. as a phosphorescent moss began to accumulate fast like timelapse photography. . and he’d been sure that Hamlet at Golgotha would be a great and popular if only as a cult classic. crawling and feeding and excreting crumpled and wordless white pages viscid with translucent mucilage from its backmost segment as it went on and on.

monstrous butterfly. He knew that he had not only just witnessed but also experienced a great metamorphosis. and he was glad. and after it became steady where it stood it began to beat its big papery page-wings. Everyone would be able to open their windows again and go out just to walk in the streets. This morning when the citizens of the city awoke they would be glad for all the city did glisten and gleam with water and light. and Arthur Bisbee stood up on his tiptoes and tears streaming from his eyes he sang eastward into infinity: "Thank You!” And just above his head a little bird sang a song from a bough of an apricot tree. quivering. its entire body glistening with a viscid iridescence. and in the spot where it had disappeared the sun crowned the mountaintop and the dawn had now begun its holy blooming. finally disappearing out over the Sangre de Cristos in the east. The night was over and the dawn had come. took a deep breath and cried out with every purring atom of his being words meant to be a prayer song to The World and the sky was turning blue and all the city was wet warm and reborn. and he tried to read the symbols on them but could not. a metamorphic protoplasm. The season of spring had arrived in the City of Faith. and so he turned to the east. It purged the sky of all those dark and brooding rainclouds and it got smaller as it flew further away and smaller and smaller and it began to blur and fade into the bluing sky. And the wind of its wings blew the mist off of the city as it flew up through the air. and the wind from it sat him down on the wet grass and he was grinning madly and laughing as the monstrous and beautiful letterfly took flight. an amniotic twomb jelly. . It climbed out of the bookoon and stood on unsteady legs.96 like God’s pants splitting as He lifted that apocalyptic or miraculous event into being and through the thick mist he saw a great winged thing emerge from what had once been the library and he only realized that it had been a cocoon (or bookoon) when he realized that the thing emerging from it was a vast.

he sat up in bed and looked out the window. The ground had stilled and everything was misty and so lifelessgray that he felt like he was standing in a giant sepulcher of fog and gloom. He got up and walked cautiously through his house as it shook. The priest could tell though that it bothered him. There was a great ssshhhhhhhing noise. suddenly the earth began to tremble and it felt like an underground thunder. Just before dawn Father Montoya lay in bed thinking. Oh well. unexpectedly. he said to himself. His nephew Marco had married an older woman who already had three children of her own and they didn’t like Marco at all and were making things very difficult for him. He stood still. silent for a moment. A clattering of china as he hobbled oldly through the kitchen with his cane and walked out the side door. down the driveway and out into the front yard. people need their space. By the time he’d gotten there everything was quiet again. but he wouldn’t talk about it. A strong. meditating. swelling and rolling and crashing slowly like a soft invisible wave all about and then ebbing back into quiet stillness before swelling again into a breeze so strong that it knocked him back.97 Book IV 22. things had gotten very quiet and still. Then. warm wind came and the clouds began rolling westward. sitting him down on the muddygrass ground with a thump! And he smiled .

He turned and walked back down the driveway and into his shaken little house. plunging wildly into the bush and slamming to an abrupt stop with it’s body sticking out and its head caught somehow in the hedge. he’d said. It was not a long walk.” He dressed quickly and walked to the mud church. and as the new day grew brighter all the wet and dripping things began gleaming and glistening more and more brightly. bye. thank you! For ever and ever! And Amen!” And the wind blew the rain. he closed his eyes and the light glowed radiant sanguine through his eyelids. He watched the sun coming up over the mountaintop: soon it shined on his face. clear and warm. The air was so fresh. the dog chasing after with its tongue flapping crazily back from its open mouth. padre. and in the wind he heard a voice say “thank you!” and he cried out: “No. spring cleaning (or The Great Vernal Purgation. The cat veered off to the left and shot through a hedge. He had work to do. I’m on my way. the sky was a dim but dawning blue and the air was clean. and the birds sang from the trees as the day was born. When he got there he sat down on an old stone bench that was still a little wet and waited there with his cane across his lap while Big Mike made his way over. So he called him. mist and clouds away.) He called Big Mike. more liquidly in the waxing dawnlight. Miguel.98 and stood up as the wind heaved all around him like a vast ocean. a little grey blur flying just above the road and disappearing through the yew. Just call me when you’re ready. There was a noise.” “Okay. It yelped . See you soon. The dog was growling and its feet clicked haphazard polyrhythms on the street. who’d said he would help. I believe we’ve got some work to do. both at a full sprint.” And Miguel said: “Buenas dias. he turned and looked and saw a dog chasing a cat. as he sometimes called it to himself. Said: “Buenas dias.

“Be careful.” Mike said.” “Everything except the church. could get pretty dirty).” the father said.” “Yes. father?” he asked. “It’s a very nice day today.clean. with dark bags hanging under his eyes. “Cuppa coffee. being made of mud. like a . “That’s okay. or this morning. It was like if you ever lived right next to a traintracks and a train goes by. staring off into space and listening to the birds. After a while Mike said: “I think there was a little earthquake last night.” “Yup. long handles stuck up and out at wrong angles.. I was half asleep but I felt my house rumble. and I walked out into my front yard and it was very grey. carrying in each hand a white foam cup of coffee.” the priest said.” “Yeah. it feels kinda nice. . Everything’s so.99 and yawled a couple of times and kicked its legs back spastically and then went limp. He got out looking weary. “There was a tremor... it’s wet. Big Mike pulled up then in his pickup truck and rolled into a slow stop along the curb.. In the back of the pickup were the tools that they would be using to clean out the church (which. not waiting for a response as he handed Father Montoya one of the cups and sat down next to him on the bench.” They sat there quietly for a while.

Not because anything funny had happened – it was more like he got a feeling that rose floating up through him and burbling out like a cluster of bubbles." Mike said.. a mighty wind came and blew the rain and the greyness away.” "It's so small. the wet bright waking world. The priest nodded. his tone a little wistful. half-falsetto. standing up." Mike said. And after it stopped. half-singing the melody. "'That’s a nice song. admiring the little purple flower with its fine white highlights.” He took a shy sip of his still-too-hot coffee. and got up off of the bench. and spying something on the ground. Mike nodded and laughed a little.. another laughter burbling out of his mouth small round and suggestive like an ellipsis. then turned his head abruptly – a sudden noise had come from inside the church." the priest said." Mike said. We always sang a song before going to bed. and the ground shook." "Yeah. After a moment of quiet contemplation he said: "It reminds me of that song. "Yes. He pointed and said: “Look. Beautiful." "Yeah. That was how I knew it was Spring." Mike said." "That's a good custom. "We used to sing that at my old summer camp. walked over to it and crouched down and examined it closely. The priest laughed too." "What song?" "All Things Bright and Beautiful.100 tomb. looking around at the landscape. . a little crocus.

yelling something in Spanish. Just after they’d disappeared from view the dog in the hedge suddenly came back to life. Finally. “Gimme that!” the man yelled. She is a confession addict. Father Montoya knew her and had seen her fly into rages before. Lupe. but never like this. Mike and the priest watched them. Then there was a flicker of (cloven) hooves clicking wildly. "That goddam goat ate my fucking fried chicken!” the man roared. old and shrill. and the woman hollered a long string of Spanish. I forgive you. the man cried “whoa!” and the woman cried “Ay Dei mi!” The man came stumbling out of the doorway without even noticing them and took off swearing down the street. its horns protruding out through two tears in the cardboard.” She said “si. laughing nervously: “Good morning. articulating with such rapidity that she seemed about to burst into flame. followed by a great wooly galloping goat with a red white and blue KFC bucket over it’s head.” and walked back into the shadowy church to pray. landing on the wet grass and hissing like snakes and cats. Mike and the priest looked at each other and shook their heads and laughed. somehow managing to follow him with a bucket over its eyes as if by clairvoyance or divine providence. although it is not my forgiveness that you seek: say two Hail Mary’s and two Our Fathers. padre.” and the priest said. mostly Spanish. . although a few sparks did fly arcing from her mouth when her teeth occasionally struck together. when she’d run out of steam she said to the priest – surprisingly mildly – “sorry father. that's mine!" Then a woman's voice.101 A man's voice: "Hey! Get the hell outta that bucket. the bucket flapping back and forth as it galloped after the man. peppered with Navajo. pulling itself from the yew and chasing off after the goat and the man. A dusty old woman dressed in rags appeared in the doorway hollering invective after the man in a furious torrent.

Maya sat up in bed.” They got up.” the father said. where they saw the old woman kneeling and praying quietly. “Yes. jeez. “What was that all about?” “I don’t know. “Something like that. Big Mike wanted to ask the priest if he’d heard about the man being crucified the night before but he didn't. put the tools they would need in it. but she had to get up at this early hour .” Mike said.” “Like spring fever?” Mike asked him. 23. And all the animals and the earth and the sky too. Mike took out a big green barrel that had been sitting in the back with the tools. hoisted it over his shoulder and followed the priest as he cane-hobbled into the church. They stood there a moment feeling the mystery of the place before commencing with the Great Vernal Purgation of the year two thousand and five.102 “Jesu – I mean. Anno Domine. rubbed her eyes and yawned. walked over to the truck and tried to untangle the tools that they would be using.” the priest said. She felt terrible. “Sometimes people go crazy in the spring.

103 because she was scheduled to open the Java Hut. but she didn’t want to be.” she said. or beautiful even. owned and sometimes run by a man named Beaufort Montenegro whom. a huge econo-size plastic bottle of blue Listerine that she’d have to use both hands to lift and skipped it and went to the kitchen for some orange juice. “Great. She winced. like. “Just make sure there’s some hot water left so that I can take a shower too. She went to the bathroom.” Brit said. the coffee shop where she and Brit worked. girlfriends with her: she didn’t want things getting complicated. I feel all filmy. the pipes let out an anguished groan from somewhere underground or within the walls.” Brit said. happy even. She saw mouthwash. and the fact that whenever he spoke to a woman he looked not into her eyes but down at her chest. poor hygiene. she said to them: "oh stop whining. “Thanks. She heard Brit’s voice say “Maya?” and she jumped a little. It made her head feel less like shit. then asked: “Do you have any mouthwash?” “Under the sink by the toilet. turned on the shower and waited for it to get hot. She peeked out from the plastic curtain and she saw Brit peeking in through the barely open door and said: “yeah?” She hoped that Brit wasn’t going to try to come into the shower with her.” Brit said. In the shower she hung her head under hot rays of water." bitterly. Brit and Maya had dubbed him Java the Hut. Maya was relieved. after a minute or two it felt more like oatmeal: a definite improvement.” she said. Last night had been fun. owing to his immensity of girth. . letting out a brief acid laugh that made the backs of her eyeballs hurt. “I’ll help you open if you want.

Maybe there were things like that in the project he’d been working on before. 24. This poem she got. It looked like a little poem: she looked more closely: it was a poem: Wirds Wirds are words With wings If birds were words They would be wirds And sing of quick And colorful things -. . Not that she cared. That was a lot better than the thing that he had shown her with the letter with the numbers. pinned up on the door with a red and white amanita mushroom magnet.Arthur Bisbee Well.104 She was about to open the refrigerator door when she spied something interesting: a little piece of paper with some writing on it. this she liked. with the numbers and the letter.

She wasn't exactly sure what the trouble with Stevie Salazar had been because Bobby drank so much tequila so fast that he'd become very incoherent very quickly and more and more so until he got to where he became alternately hostile. He sat there waiting on the front stoop.” and walked back around to the front door. all that snow-shoveling and then the trouble with Stevie Salazar and all the drinking afterward after coming home. crouched down and said: “Hola little flowers. There was a rustling. Bobby was still sleeping: exhausted from the day and night before. Eventually he grew impatient and began making demands: “myow mrao miau meow mau!” That usually . remorseful. standing a little bit straighter and taller.” she said singsongily.105 Celia Ojaque walked out in her fuzzy pink bathrobe and prairie dog slippers. She stood in the waxing dawnlight for a while and then walked slowly around the house. she stood up and turned to see a little gray cat trot out from behind her neighbor’s garage with its eyes smiling as it ran to her. She petted them off gently with her hand and the cat began to purr. “Hola little cat.” and wiped some fat drops of water off of a drooping little snowdrop and she smiling proudly as it bounced back up. It had wet leaves all over it. She walked over to them. Some purple crocuses and white snowdrops were coming up from a patch of dirt along the foundation of the house under the kitchen window. She scratched it behind the ears and it moved its head into different positions to facilitate the scratching of the harder-to-get areas. She’d expected it to be snowy but the snow was gone now and everything was wet and kind of warm. “You’re so little: are you a kitten?” After petting him a while. hysterical and afraid. she said: “Wait here – I’ll get you some milk. making sure not to let the eager little creature follow her into the house (he’d followed close at heel as she’d walked). getting harder and harder to handle until eventually she'd wrestled him into submission and relocated him by force to the bedroom (she was a large woman and good at wrestling) where slowly he swore and sobbed himself to sleep.

then walked back out through the front yard to the sidewalk and stepped carefully over the mudsoggy strip of grass between the sidewalk and the curb and stood on the curb looking down the street: first left. She took a cigarette out and lit it and took her first drag of the day. “One of these days I’m gonna knock your ass out.106 worked. The truck beeped hi in return. wrongways.” she said. “Granny’s up early. and Chris sat there with sunglasses on.” she said. The truck rolled to a stop on her side of the road.” he said. but with a sly coquettishness in her sloe almond eyes as she dragged on her cigarette.” “Oh shut up. “Promises promises. She stood there watching him for a few moments. a pickup truck set high up on big black tires: Chris. He said: “What’s the haps mudflaps?” “I told you not to say that to me again. Ay chihuahua. She could do it. Then: “So what are you up to this morning?” “I hadda get outta the house. then right.” she said. She soon came and put out a saucer of milk that he proceeded to lap up with great zeal. “You tease. her tone one of protest. Probably coming by to tell her about Maya. rock n roll music playing and his arm hanging down out of the open driverside window tapping his hand on the door to the beat.” he said. A couple blocks down someone turned onto her street. “You love it. As the truck approached she waved her arm back and forth over her head. chuckling. too. The ring on his middle finger went tick tick tick tick.” .” he said.

it helped him not feel like such a sap for pining over Maya. It’s some weird kind of bragging.” he said. “She was bad this morning. Like in the late night early morning after getting up to go to the bathroom or whatever. She just went on and on. But in the days of yore I was cool. probably start drinking at noon.” “You're a good person. I’m thinkin of just drivin up to the river and camping out a coupla days. “You love her and you know it.” “You always say that but you never do it.107 “Uh oh. I know. I mean I made her some breakfast first.” .” She laughed. Now I feel like a housewife sometimes. complaining how there was an earthquake and she could have died. And I mean as much as I can’t stand her I gotta take care of her.” he said. He liked that she wanted him.” “I know. or like some reverse psychology trick on God. walking up close and rubbing her hand up and down his forearm. It’s the right thing to do. “Take it back right now. She’s always talking about dying.. “I wouldn’t go that far.” “Yeah. but I split asap. So I left.” she said. Once. It’s a nightmare. she gets really cranky when she can’t go to sleep..” “You take that back. I’m lame. So she won’t die I mean. a bacon cheddar omelet. Days like this she’ll be all ornery.

. She asked him: "Who's they?" . She took a last drag of her cigarette and threw it into the watery gutter where it hissed and died." "Oh. come back when you're done if you want.” he said. I’m definitely going camping.108 “She sure is a handful. She didn't know Jim Daniels either but she'd heard Bobby talk about him. or lived. "Well. “Tell you whut. I never really knew him but he lives..” "Okay. it’s a fucking nightmare.” she said. "They killed Jim Daniels last night. they’re already open. shit. Bobby’ll probably sleep till noon or after – he got shitfaced right when he come home last night. “She fucking shit on the bathroom floor yesterday." she said.” he said: “and even on the wall and the side of the tub.” “No shit." she said. They’re having an all day sale at Kingsports. slapping her thigh. next door to Maya. so I'll probably just be around here doin nothin or somethin.” “Yeah. “No." "Bobby got drunk?" he asked. He was all fried about some bad things that happened with Stevie Salazar. That’s where I’m goin." "Oh yeah. Crazy shit. "Has the world gone mad?" "Seriously though – it was worse than usual last night. smirking ironically.” “Ay chihuahua. nodding.” Celia said." Chris said.

"Okay. "Sorry if I made you not feel good. I think the cops are still looking for him." "Yeah. The guy I heard it from's a cop who told me not to tell anyone." "I won't. "Still at large. But don't tell anyone.109 "Stevie Salazar and some other guy." she said. He knew he shouldn't have told her. but it didn't make any sense at all." he said." she said. "I gave it some milk. it was gone: the water had carried it away. She felt a pang in her viscera. "I don't feel good. he said quietly: "they crucified him and drank his blood." "Shit." Then Ash came running up through the front yard. and now they made sense." "It just showed up." he said. Then said: "that's so fucked up. ." crossed herself and looked down at where her cigarette had been. she looked at him expectantly. Chris noticed him and said: "that looks like Maya's cat." he said. or she understood what he'd been trying to say.." she said solemnly." Celia said.. "That's fucked up. putting her hand over her stomach or womb. Stevie flipped out and turned himself in." he said." "You're a good person. "Sorry. so make sure you keep quiet about it." she said." and was about to say more but then trailed off. things that Bobby had said last night that hadn't made any sense came back to her now. "I think I'm gonna go inside.

"Don't say that to me again. tampon. he ." "I will. he was more tempted to take it – the very idea of having a handicapped spot at a sporting goods store seemed ludicrous." "Later on. so he decided he would take the spot. he wondered what the hell's a psychopomp. he went to pull in and from out of nowhere rolls a man in a wheelchair. and besides. and pop out. off to Kingsports." he said. "Come back later if you want." she said. Flummoxed and flabbergasted. head up to the river post haste for some much-needed peace of mind.110 "I know it." she said. Each time he passed. get what he needed. "But everybody else is totally fucked. walking away. When he got to Kingsports the lot was packed." he said. he thought to himself. clamping down his wheel locks. And having a handicapped parking spot at a sporting goods store didn’t make any sense at all. the little cat following at her heel. “Motherfucker. "Later Chris." She turned to go. He drove around endlessly in purgatorial circuits along with a couple of other cars. eyeing each time he passed it a vacant handicapped parking spot right by the front door. absurdly furious at absurdity (so that his ridiculous rage fed on itself). He pulled away. "Okay. He slammed his hand down on the steering wheel and made for the exit." she said. but when he finally made it around the circuit again. Psychopomp Stomp by the Jobbs came on the radio. He just wanted to pop in. Fuck it all. Fuck it. he knew what he wanted and where the things were in the store: a new pair of hipwaders and a kickass fly-tying kit that he’d seen was like eighty percent off in an ad in the paper. getting out of the wheelchair and walking into the front door. wheeling into the spot.” he said bitterly. I'll be around.

. The room was bright.or was merely revealing its own true color as water rarely gets a chance to do.. Kneeling almost like a supplicant over the edge of a dark pool. rippling the water and warping the eyes so that they did not look like eyes now. but he was not reflecting. He was not even surprised later when he saw a dog chasing a goat with a KFC bucket over its head chasing a man. 25. or felt bright: he had not yet opened his eyes.. He was not surprised in the least. and just before he touched it he heard a word whose meaning he did not know and he awoke: it had been a dream. When the water settled back into stillness it did not reflect anything but a vast vague color like a dark sky. . The world is going absolutely fucking bonkers. not reflected: they were Maya's. He reached out to touch it with his finger and it did not reflect his hand. but the darkness he saw seemed though deeply black to glow with a reddish light as from a light passing through the flesh and the blood of his . Her unmistakable stygian eyes. it had to be. Then without warning a pebble or a jewel or a seed fell from the sky into the water between the eyes.. just a chaos of fragments. It was confusing: he felt like he was himself: It was the water that wasn't right. looking down into a pair of eyes that should have been his own. A thought occurred to him that had already occurred to him once this morning with Granny: the world is going insane. or anything at all.111 pulled out into the road.

trilling. where it feasted on the books within and then turned into a giant butterfly and flew away. took the paper out. he thought to himself. He got up. He sat up slowly. The images very vivid. When he finally opened his eyes the room was bright. He wondered what it might mean.112 eyelids. unfolded it and put it on the end table. Birds. Birds are wirds with wings that sing and bring the brightness of the spring. rubbed his eyes and picked the mocean sand out with his forefingers. a haiku. the curtains were soaked with sunlight. as he’d expected. more like memories than dreams. He felt different: strange. a river of visions rippling down through his mind. or in the form of one at least: In the visible You were the invisible: . the snowy sepulcher that the city had become had seemed like death so final. rather. then got a pen from the end table. walked out into the living room and got the envelope with the blank piece of paper in it. like a waterfall broken into cascades by outcroppings on its way down. but he did not think about it too hard: now was not the time for that kind of thing: now he was just letting things play through his head. He wanted to open his eyes but did not yet. warbling. weaving. (And dreaming a form of memory?) He'd had an epiphany while pondering characters crawling into toilets. the pondering a form of dream itself. And he’d forgotten that spring was coming (or had come) -. come and go of their own accord. he lay there drifting through his inner darkness. sweet small notes. sometimes skipping or tripping over each other but unbothered by this. luxuriating in the dim ebb of his semiconsciousness and pondering the memories of the unusually vivid dreams he’d had the night before. then wrote down the poem he’d heard. Then he heard a poem in the silence. though in a very indefinite way. and his Hamlet at Golgotha notebooks turned into some strange viscid megapede and crealwed through the town and to the library. But now the room is bright and the birds sing.the previous day had been so wintry. in fact made more beautiful by it. flowing down from an invisible mountaintop and out into a silent sea. Outside he heard birds singing.

26. He wanted to go back to sleep (forever sometimes). or in books of fiction that are secretly books of truth). he did not know that it had flown away. Finnegan awoke yearning for the hangover of the day before: compared to this day's it was an opium nod. but he did not feel the urgency of the day before.113 Indivisible He folded the paper back into thirds and put it back into the envelope and then he picked up The Spider’s House from the arm of the couch took the book into the bathroom and took a bath. but he knew that he could not. He thought that it was just another day. The sound of running water helped him into the fiction. He sat up in bed and he noticed that he was holding . and if not if it was too early to go get some. (Nor did he know that he’d already completed the work and that it had already served its purpose and established its place in history even if no one would ever know except for him: many of the world’s most important events have gone unrecorded by history: often they can be found only in dreams that are actually secret memories. He looked forward to getting back to work on Hamlet at Golgotha. He thought that it was just another day: he looked forward to getting back to work on Hamlet and Golgotha. He wondered if he had any beer. did not notice in his haste to write down the poem he’d heard (an invisible answer on the silence of the wordless love letter he’d received) that all of his notebooks were in fact gone and would never be back.

114 something in his hand. and puked. But it . He didn’t know which were which anymore. but soon it was over. but he didn’t think he could walk. women and guns. He found the pills in a dirty pair of pants on the floor. so he fell to the floor.. he didn’t even think he’d known in the first place. the pants he’d worn to Arthur’s. then put on his clean clothes. and laughing the cracked and crazy nihilistic laugh that he’d been getting frighteningly used to lately and began to look for pants as Jumpin Jack Jobb sang a another bitter ballad about whiskey. though his head pounded and he was soaked in a cold sweat that made him shiver. but dead men don’t puke. He swung his legs around so that they hung over the side of the bed and then he leaned over and put the gun under the bed. He wondered if he was dead. or things in his hands. not getting out until the hot water ran out. unable to remember. noticing as he looked at himself in the mirror the bullet hole that he’d put there the night before. and he felt some measure of relief. or that Bobby Ojaque had ever known: he might have fucked them up the same way he was known to fuck up so many things. crawled blindly to the bathroom. He felt like a ragdoll being thrashed about by an angry gorilla. then lay back down: Jack Jobb: I always thought that the fountain of youth Came in a bottle marked eighty-six proof And I should be so young But I'm older than dirt My hands won't stop shakin And everything hurts After a while he went to get up and got up too quickly to go to the bathroom and his visual field faded into a white light. He raised them up in front of his face: a remote control. the gun.. pointed the remote at the stereo and fired. and he was fairly certain that he was about to. He sat back up. so he took off his clothes and took a long hot shower. shuddering a little at what he might have done with it.

He looked at the clock: it was still early. Maybe a fifth of whiskey.” Maybe Bobby got busted. but it was not enough: he really needed a good stiff drink. More beer. “Shit. he had to be sober the next day to work at Jorge’s house painting the interiors and tiling the bathroom but today was a hair of the dog and possibly a drink the whole goddam dog day. Maybe even drink the whole dog. A fifth. Hair of the dog. “God dammit. but he’d passed out early the night before and slept for many hours. Go to Arthur’s maybe. Maybe he’d go see Brit and Maya at the coffee shop. But he’d be needing more. He took out three or four of each of the three different kinds of pills he had (one variety of which he’d not taken at Arthur’s) and walked out into the kitchen. (whom he thought might be distant relative on the Logan side of the Finnegan-Logan clan). the other officer. or even a week. made eye contact. It might be necessary. And still so alone. Before he could close the window and hide. He felt a sense of looseness and relief. A pint. He used it to wash down the pills. An unmarked police car pulled up to the curb in front of his house and two plainclothesmen got out and walked up his front walk. But he’d drunk a lot. That would be just his luck. He knew one of them from another investigation he’d been involved in the year previous. Alone. And he was still pretty drunk. .” he said bitterly. looked and saw him. Coming to get him. And too soon again that sound he hated so: someone knocking at his door. One of those days. getting up. He opened the window to check conditions outside and was so surprised at the warm weather and the snowlessness that he thought he might have slept for two days. a benevolent warmth spreading through his insides. There was one can of beer left. and he closed the window. who was not familiar. maybe a pint of whiskey.115 didn’t really matter. sat on his bed and finished his beer in one long pull. and he wondered what investigation he was involved in now.

He opened it and hurried in and quickly shut it behind him. bleating – that indicated a struggle between beasts right up against the other side of the door before which he stood and he quietly. so he'd run across the stranger's front lawn. It was. likewise shutting the thick white fake-wood inside door shortly after which he felt the goat crash into it with a great thunderous thud! and there followed a series of sounds – scraping. He'd been running out of wind. uttered a thank you to Whomever..” he said. and he knew that the Devil answered no man's prayers (although He was always negotiable. 27. He was close to all-out give-out. barking. and out of luck. out of time. only the Devil. snarling. reverently. the dog not far behind. He did not believe in God. Once again he found himself in a stranger's house. and he stepped back from the door and stood breathing hard and heavy in the stranger's living room as the fire in his legs and lungs died . thumping. The galloping goat had been hot on his heels. but fortunately he'd seen a man walk out of his house and down the sidewalk in the direction opposite the one from which he was approaching. He went to get the door..116 “Fuck. his feet sinking and sticking in the thick sucking mud. leaving his front door open and only the screen door closed. he'd prayed (although he was not sure to Whom) that that screen door would be unlocked. and his legs and his lungs had been burning.) but regardless.

and the sound of running water. He wanted to find a nice park where he could enjoy his sandwich and vodka. wet. lasciviously out of the crack and slithering serpentlike across the ceiling. the warm wind and the sunshine. And soon he did find a park. badly. steam crawling slowly. and the shower curtain too was a little bit open. a field . Ketel One – and a big half-hoagie out of the fridge. gunty. mottled. and he felt like his hardon might rip through his pants. now he was disillusioned and flaccid and bitter. someone else was in the house with him: a woman. ugly in all the wrong places. He felt lied to by her young and voluptuous voice. He pushed it open a bit more. He could hear his hot blood throbbing in his ears. pushed his face into the hot wet steam and peeked. within him. taking a roll of cash bound in a rubberband from a drawer full of old undergarments that exhaled an effluvium of dust when he moved them that smelled like lost time. hairy. now. He took her jewelry even though it was mostly crap and went to the kitchen. He followed the sound of the singing. able to laugh now. The door was already open a little. A mad rush of images surged through his mind with an almost unbearable rapidity and he realized that he had not had a woman in a long time and that he wanted one. old. drooping. depressing. He heard music then. graying.. and he grew very excited and even drooled a little. He was happy just to walk now after the morning’s hectic start. And then he saw her: naked. then absconded out the back door as was quickly becoming habit.117 slowly down and a calm began to settle over him. a wet naked woman. a naked woman. as often happens to a man who’s life has recently been threatened. took a half-bottle of vodka from the counter – good stuff. from the bathroom. wondering what the goat and the dog were up to. laughing to himself now at the series of events that had recently transpired. pocked. a voice gently crooning. fat.. He walked away down the hall and into the bedroom and went through every drawer.

Well." She stopped to listen.” he said. He raised an index finger and said: "excuse me.118 on the edge of a forest with some benches. As she passed him at his bench she looked at him and smiled politely.” he said. merging briefly with the sidewalk by the street and then bending back into the forest along the other edge. and what she tasted like. and just then he saw a young woman who looked like the woman in the shower should have looked and he wondered what the young woman would look like naked and wet. But he did not throw her down and savagely ravage her in the springwet grass (except perhaps in his mind). forming a half-ellipse. grinning. “It goes through the woods to the big park by the river. “I’m not from around here. only asked her: “where does this path lead to?” “Oh. “Okay.” “Well. He went to one of the benches and sat down. “No problem. her skin was smooth and radiant with health and youth. jogging in place. no problem.” she said. breasts bouncing up. Her hair was blonde and pulled back in a ponytail. a gazebo and a black paved path that looped out of one end of the forest and around the perimeter of the field. and he smiled.” “You did.” she said. glad I could help. Peralta Park. facing him now. wondering whether there might not be someplace more secluded down one of those paths.” “Thank you. either way you go it goes there.” “Thanks” .

humming a tune to himself. because a man does not think of himself by a name. whose births are forgotten. Have a nice day. for not-I's. who simply do and take what they want. For those without name.” “I’ll try. but his urges pulled him onward. but only ever called himself by way of introduction to those whom he wished to deceive.” She resumed her jog. and indeed he barely knew himself. he is he because I is I and that is that. He got up and walked after her. Smiling. A man does not need a name for himself unless he wants to be kept track of – to pay taxes. to define and possess and expect things from. Geraldo was not his real name. But it is only a burden.. but he did know that he was not Geraldo and had never thought of himself as such. but even those who knew him best barely knew him at all. I is I. or get a paycheck. thinking very bad things. whom he did not want knowing him. She disappeared around it and he did not see her again. world to world. he is not Geraldo. But nobody knows him. As they went on though the distance between them grew. and his name is for others. who live not by the paycheck and who do not pay taxes.. his name is not Geraldo. but these things that are attached to the name that is attached to the man are not for him who is known by the name but for those who claim to know him thereby. who cross borders without passports. Soon there came a part of the path where it turned sharply. bouncing off down the path and back into the woods. he followed her as she bounced back into the woods. which was everyone. undifferentiated by nomenclature. That was what he was known as to those who knew him best. . or a tombstone. none can claim him.119 “Your welcome. from state to state. and it was tiring. plucking it perhaps from the kitchens of strangers like fruit from the trees in Eden – what good is a name to them? He followed the young woman through the woods as she bounced. who seek to know him as a means of claiming him. nation to nation.

He unwrapped the sandwich and took a few bites. He took off his jacket (stolen cheap jewelry jingling in pockets) and his shirt so that he wore only his undershirt and his tattoos on his upper body. tawny skin and good muscle tone. a lone girl with a book lay out sunbathing and a few couples or small groups on blankets. his beating blood. He could never get enough flesh and blood. He took off his sunglasses. It warmed his body from the inside as the sunlight warmed it from the outside. . took a long sip and let it flow through him. then took another swig of the vodka and then hid it under his jacket. but he couldn’t get a good look at her face.” There were people there. mostly young and beautiful. Oh how he loved flesh and blood. closing his eyes and resting his head on the moist grass. He saw red: the light shining through his flesh and his blood: his sensate flesh.120 So he walked alone through the woods until they opened up into Peralta Park. squinted in the light and opened the vodka. a thin girl with black hair in a bun that gleamed in the light. “the big park by the river. After a few more bites of the sandwich he wrapped it back up and put it off to the side and then lay back and lit a cigarette. He walked out to a nice sunny spot in the grass by the lone sunbather with the book. He wondered what the sunbathing girl tasted like. 28. but not many: a black and white dog ran from person to person as they threw a frisbee. Judging by her body she seemed to be in her early to mid twenties.

bracing himself when cars passed. cats are the chosen. and walked with high steps over the grass to the sidewalk where it was dryer which pleased him and he purred. and they definitely growled more and (somehow) smelled worse. just going. as every cat knows. so he just went. The big growly truck grumbled away and for the first time in a while Ash began to wonder where he was in relation to his home and how he was going to get back there. He understood though. and then gone inside with her hand on her tummy and he tried to follow her in but she wouldn't let him. over the cement curb and onto the bright green strip of long wet grass in between the curb and the sidewalk. He walked down the sidewalk. But the question lingered: for how long? And a voice in him whispurred the roads cannot hold them forever. but he knew that they worked in mysterious ways and cared little for the urgencies of the individual (as compared to the chosen species as a whole). tightening up a little.. slightly frightening in the light. but he hoped that providence and intuition (which his wise old mother once said are merely two aspects of the same greater thing) would usher him promptly homeward so that he would not miss the peak hours of his favorite sunbeam. so he knew that the great intangibles would favor him. not knowing.121 The purry-milk woman had lingered by the big growly grumbling truck. . and consoled himself by reminding himself that stranger's houses sometimes had dangers inside. Quickly and cautiously he crossed the street. leaving things to providence and intuition both of which tend to work in a cat's favor because. He turned around and headed back out into the world. The sidewalk went in two directions: he looked one way and then the other: both ways looked the same: unfamiliar. one way and not the other. extending unendingly into indistinct distances. in driveways or in the big mouths of the houses – they seemed even more soulless and subservient than dogs. her aura going from a rosy-milk pink-mother glow to a deep gloomy purple melancholy like a bruise. running and jumping over the water in the gutter. even though he had learned from experience that cars and trucks almost always stayed on the road. But they stayed on the road..

but there was a great spot in the back (it wasn't technically a parking spot but if a few key spots were left vacant there was room for him to pull up along the fence and it became one de facto) along an old chainlink fence where the skeleton of a large bird (decorated with thin silver ribbons of Christmas tinsel that whipped in the wind and glittered in the light) was perched. The houses along the street disappeared and now there was a cemetery (with misty auras grey like his fur coalescing slowly like a phantom fog round the stones) to one side and a vacant lot to the other and a very busy road running perpendicular to the street that he was on.122 On a whim he turned down a little side street. because he had the biggest baddest truck in town. He liked the new street that he had turned onto: there were fewer cars and fewer dogs. He did not know that he was heading downtown towards the Java Hut. But it did not last. sat and cleaned himself a little. He purred. and the small front lot was full. He licked his chops. out of envy. he hated parking on the street out front: he thought someone would vandalize it or something. He did not like the big and busy street. Crept. was always full. He was hungry now and they were there. held in place by a rusty old ligature . He crouched. he could kill all of them. a leaning feeling in his proprioception. crept low along the ground. 29. Licked chops. He stopped. There were a lot of them.. Luckily his space (it wasn't really his. They were big. the prairie dogs. some of them were bigger than him. He turned instead to the vacant lot. He was merely following an inchoate inner impulse. A cat who is unafraid can do anything. but he could kill any one among them. which sometimes helped him think. he just didn't like parking his truck anywhere else) in the back of Java Hut was open..

but he’d never really had an opportunity. he continued to walk straight at him without looking at him until a prairie dog hole caught his attention and he proceeded to examine it: sniffing it and looking into it quizzically. He watched him creep stealthily along like a furry little ninja in the dust. head cocked as if in thought.123 of gnarly haywire and kept upright by an inner skeleton of bent coat hanger – (courtesy of Sparkplug: a scrappy little Mestizo artist and eccentric who occasionally worked at Java Hut washing dishes and who Chris sometimes gave thirty bucks to detail his truck) – with cheap jewelry in its skull that gleamed like consciousness out of its eyesockets. Probably she didn’t know he’d gotten out. projecting absence at you so that you have to really focus to see them. On the other side of the fence was a dirt field where prairie dogs hurriedly scampered hither. scurried yon. and if Maya knew where he was. or was ignoring him. almost invisible. This made it fairly easy for Chris to simply scoop him up. small and gray and almost not there in that way that cats have of seeming not to be: silent. He wondered what the hell he was doing out here. Chris. Ash did not try to escape but allowed himself to be scooped right up and in fact clung to Chris's shirt with his claws. . And what if he. and this was an opportunity. The others all hurried into their holes jut as the little cat came lurking into view. As it came closer he realized that it was Ash. walked into the Java Hut with little Ash in his arms: how thankful would she be? How happy? For so many years he’d wanted to do something heroic to make her see him differently. A humble one. scuttled thither. carefully so as not to scare Ash away. Little toy barks yip yip yip!. Chris felt them through his shirt poking but not breaking the flesh on his chest as he climbed one-handed back over the chainlink fence. Maybe that’s why they call them prairie dogs. yes. because they bark. Chris thought to himself. Prairie dogs all wired like coffee shop people. Ash didn’t seem to notice him. So he hopped the fence. but a significant one. being cat-haughty. One of them stood up on its hind legs and began barking. Maya’s cat.

The other worker behind the counter with Maya was Charles. twisting and stretching out. Ash turned over in the crook of Chris’s arm. He walked in. He got up and did not brush himself off as he walked across the gravelly lot with dull crunching steps.124 holding the cat fast to himself when he fell to the ground after landing poorly on the other side. “Oh yay!” Brit cried exuberantly. reaching out his forepaws. arching his back and opening his mouth wide as he . She thought he might get trapped in the snow and freeze.” “Nah. He hated how that big fat asshole who owned the place was always juggling her shifts around. He suspected it was mutual: they were madly in hate with each other: and hate like love is much easier to fall into than out of. he’s fine. But he didn't mind the fall: he'd rolled with it and neither he nor the cat had been hurt and the dirt on his shirt made him look heroic. She didn't seem to care but Chris didn't like not knowing when she was working. Brit though said hi and waved him come on over enthusiastically. That was good. She was there.” Chris said. who was on the customer side of the counter swiveling back and forth on a stool that made squeakamouse noises.” Chris said. I didn’t think it was a big deal but Maya got upset. “You found Ashy! Maya was so worried about him. Then: “I was the one who let him out. He sat down at the bar on a stool next to Brit. “Hey Ash!” she said. Chris hated Charles. With Brit. petting Ash’s head gently. Charles gave him a cool saurian stare. He had Ash cradled in his left arm. Maya disappeared into the dishroom in back before seeing him. He sneered at him as he went to sit down. not just because Maya charged him less: it was just that Charles filled him with such utter loathing. He didn’t want to order his drink from Charles. He thought Maya was working but he wasn’t sure.” “He was trying to scare up some prairie dogs in that dirt field out back.

"There's no pets allowed. and took Ash back from Brit." she . "I should take him home. "Thank you so much." she said." Charles said sourly. Chris saw Charles looking at them and he raised an eyebrow at him. and peppering the top of his head with little glittering kisses. let him go. “Actually I think I saved the prairie dogs from him." Brit remonstrated. handing him to her. Then Brit called to the back room: "Maya! Ash is back! Chris rescued Ash!" Maya emerged from the back room with big steaming yellow rubber gloves on. “I was so so worried about you!” “Chris saved him from the prairie dogs!” Brit cheered." Chris trumped. "And I found her. puffing his chest out a little.” Chris said. Once she saw Ash she took off her gloves and hurried over and grabbed him up and clutched him to her breast. “He’s so cute!” Brit said. "It's Maya's cat and he was lost and she was worried. almost engulfing him. and came around from behind the bar. letting out a little squeaking noise. “Lemme hold him. Charles looked away and pretended to be busy with something.125 yawned." he said. She put him on the bar and began petting him with both hands. handed Ash to Brit and wrapped herself around Chris and squeezed.” "Sure. She kissed him wetly on the cheek.

126 said. He smiled and blushed a little." Maya said. She was looking at him differently now. I dunno. he thought." Maya said." Brit said. Are you coming back?" "I dunno." "Okay. Definitely differently." Maya turned to Chris and asked him again: "Can you give us a ride?" "Of course. "Either way. We'll see." Maya said. "Shall we roll?" Chris asked." then looked into Ash's eyes and asked him: "did you miss your sunbeam?" nuzzling him with her nose." "Okay. "He probably needs a rest. "You want me to?" "I don't care. She turned to Brit and asked: "will you cover for me?" And Brit said: "Sure. . "Okay then. "That's cool." Maya said. "Cool then. "Cool. I'm tired but I need hours. giving him a smoldering look. "Like Stones." Brit said. I might just get baked and go to bed." Chris said. do what you want." Brit said.

.127 "Mriao." Ash said.

.... by ((it/"it"))'s aspects) what "it" was to him but (it/"it") was hidden somewhere within... kind of wanted to leave (")it(") the way "(it)" was... ..128 30...he suspected that he knew (perhaps indirectly.. i of the variable pronoun (x = “its”(?)) that holds its (“its”? yes.. r .. by knowing without knowing. and he was not really sure that he wanted to know “(it/”it”)”. ps)ygnostemantichoreographick ... peeking out from behind that dark circumference like a solar eclipse. t . u m .. .. Halfconscious thinking halfthings round a ring of blazing light around a pupil black profundo peering in the service of connected to what mind that sees you watching from this eye from Whom or What behind the sky * * * * * (?) * * (!) * (?) * * * * * * * * (!) * (?) * * * * * (!) * * * * * (?) * * * And most don’t know until it’s gone a ghost deep in the past so long that it’s almost forgotten rotten decomposed no recomposed incarnate but unrecognized and only when it’s gone again from do you realize that it came back and then it left again. o o .) r ..*** ... or mnemnumbral subgonsis.and what is “it” v (mbedded) S What is a b s y t l i e n h u(man) significtion c v a l e n c e e s h (?) moceanachronos.***(!?)***.. both its and “its”) place in that glimgloam everly cryptoshifting cipher ? . that was the only way he thought that he could handle ("()").

How the ground trembled. and often unbearable. Wake up. Asshole. messy and complicated. He was the only one who knew how Finnegan sometimes got: the loneliness and the instability. but from the fragments Arthur had formed a tough mosaic of how things were.129 He dried himself off. Nearing Finnegan’s he squinted as he walked against the sunlight. Infant. So every once in a while Arthur checked on him to make sure he was okay. He’d decided to go check on Finnegan to make sure he was okay. he was feeling oddly fine. Wake up.. His cellphone began to vibrate in his pocket and it reminded him of the lightbulb in the bathroom and was . thinking halfthings round in rippling rings.. He walked out into the actual sunlight and as he walked he wondered. Geraldo had only complicated things further because now it was more than just the usual sturm and drag. But today it wasn’t so bad. now the real world was intruding. how alive. Fucking Finnegan.) But Finnegan had told him about it – never too directly. his mind drifting back to the dream he’d had the night before. Fucked me again.. how good it felt. He was not as worried as he ought to have been. but you don’t know it because you’re not there when the person’s alone. revealing only aspects. Snap the crap out of it. He remembered fondly the soft moss that had enveloped the library.. Grow up. oh so bliquely suggesting certain things in the obscure hours of late drunken nights. Child. muddy like spring. (It’s kind of like Heisenberg’s Uncertainty. He felt different than he felt like he should have felt.. the anguish and the agony. Cursing him. It’s strange how a person might be so different when he’s alone. And he was seized by an epiphany of ignorance like black electricity in his veins.. Change. He felt light and easy as he walked. though.

his voice not as instantly recognizable as usual because of its unfamiliar tone: seriousness. raising it into position and saying: “hello?” “Dude. “Okay. c’--” .” Arthur said. “Fuck no. or if he’d read by natural light. in the little display window but he answered anyway. so he sat down on someone’s front lawn. Get some liquor. “I’m on my way over to your house. “Good. Come over and we’ll talk.” “Maybe you should take it easy. flipping it open. I need a friggin drink. Jose. and he took out his cellphone and tried to see who it was but his vision was blurry and he couldn’t make out the caller i. I’m ta--” “Jamie.130 that a dream or had it really happened? He couldn’t even remember if he’d turned the light on to read by when he’d taken his bath. the moisture soaking through the seat of his pants.” “Are you okay?” “I guess. Go to Flask’s and get some booze.” Finnegan said.” Finnegan said. He tried to think and grew slightly dizzy.” Arthur said. There’s some fucked up shit going on though.d.” “With Stevie and Geraldo?” “Yeah.

” Arthur said. I’m all fuckin fried and wired and weird from a Nagasaki hangover and talkin to the cops and some pills I took. “The maddest insanity made is in sanity.” “How close are you?” Finnegan asked.” “Can do.131 “Nigga please. Roger Wilco. “I’ll be there in like five minutes.” Arthur got up and started walking again.” “Righty-O matey.” Finnegan said. “Yes it is. Madly sane I tell you: we’re brain-deep in sanity now. I need a sixer and a coupla shots to take the edge off. I’m talkin now get a number.” “That’s a big ten four good buddy. Is the liquor store even gonna be open?” “I dunno. “Wait’ll you hear the fuckin details. stat. Check.” “Over and out. Just get here.” .” “Cheerio then.” “This is madness.

” “Tah.. presenting a bust of himself: only his head and shoulders cleared the counter. darting eyes. He popped out from behind the register. He knew Arthur pretty well. But then there was movement. not worried." . He was a wellknown and respected artist but sometimes he had to work because his works sold only sporadically and he never saved his money ("heyn't no savior heah n'm's just the sparkarma chili con satwah faire.132 “Signing off." He folded his phone back up and put it away. his face rubbery and cartoonish. Sparkplug was known all over the southwest as the man who always spoke complete nonsense but was never misunderstood..comosta Holmes gotta lightbulb Wattson?” Speaking his trademark improvisational presto change-o slang-o lingo. he always asked Arthur about writing. but mostly just curious.") "What's the word Sparkmeister. and bright. old yet childish. except maybe a little at the fact that he wasn’t worried. he figured whoever was working was probably in the back stacking cases or rolling kegs around or something. “’Eyo yo Artwork Busybee my mainline choochoo muchacho -. Intrigued now.” "Ptah.” "Alrighty then. He wondered what the interesting details that Finnegan had mentioned would be. or behind the counter anyway. on his head a blue bandanna with white paramecium designs. Arthur usually didn’t like talking about it but with Sparkplug it was okay. Sparkplug. but there didn’t appear to be anyone there. Flask’s was open.

"Dude." Sparkplug nodded. nofl unk injoke. I totally mellowed out. you know how it is. But you know how it is. whodo voodoo bloozeblaze searly syung moan?" "Finnegan. cocked his head skeptically and thumbed the thin whiskers on his chin." and he crossed his hands in front of himself and made them flutter madly: a crankaddled bird tweaking crazily across the firmament: "tweaka tweaky wheel no cease. and Sparkplug rang him up. Arthur put his items." "I hear that." he said. "Sonata notu. Again?" "I guess. . Sparkdawg. " Arthur said." Arthur said. "Issa crandy oleopath. a twelve pack of beer and a bottle of whiskey." "Blongone. Sparkplug shook his head ruefully. You still rock hard." Sparkplug looked up at him and raised a rubbery eyebrow." Arthur said." Arthur said. "He's had a rough coupla days. "Thanks dude. pathaholick?" Not speaking to Arthur really but more down to his shoes or possibly whatever chthonic trickster gods spawned him out of the substrata.133 "Meisterzingadanken izza blueloobloomorning widda blooze got blooze disairly. It's not for me. nodding. waving his hand dismissively. "Bigga blenderbendereliction uden mac Finnegan agen o fer nothing gain. echobyebyebye. dude. I'm not really like that anymore. looked down at his little kid shoes. "don't worry. on the counter.

men in hazmat suits like astronauts sifting through the rubble. Finnegan was sitting on the couch with Charlene. A man with a sign: "The End is Near." standing in close proximity to the Faith County Sheriff. and the edge of a milling crowd squeezed altogether. his old beat-up guitar.134 “Daynada niteowl.'" Finnegan said. trying to get seen on t. and Arthur walked out and headed down the sidewalk towards Finnegan's." and at first Arthur thought he meant the weird antimusic coming from the poor guitar. trying to get a look at the scene. back in the depths of the screen. When he got there Finnegan's door was open and he could hear a television and some distinctly non (almost anti) -musical sounds coming from a guitar. Finnegan didn't answer.. although he suspected he knew. eyes squirmy and glowing like radioactive larvae. on his lap.” Sparkplug said. Behind Mandy Mendez.. Oh that poor poor guitar. He walked in. "What happened?" he asked. . He said: "Check it out. he could yellow crimescene tape. Totally out of it. sliding a beercan back and forth over it. where channel 19's own Mandy Mendez stood in front of the ruins of the City of Faith public library. fire engines with their twirling lights. but then he gestured to the television. "'The sheriff's a near.v. Arthur laughed. The Far Side. Crab nebula. men in suits and sunglasses looking important. In the mocean but not of it.

) and Blitzen kept talking over him: “It’s always you guys every time. we know.” and now he retracted his finger and began shaking his fist at the man with unrestrained hostility and the man in the suit said “(mumblegrumblumblemumb)” and Hans Blitzen looked almost like he was trying to punch the mumbling man as he shook his fist at him and said: “be afraid. Dusk to dusk!” he cried.” for which he'd been awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics. which he described as “very small and very important..” and then saying.135 One man. didn’t you?! Your Prometheus unbound! Oh.. The camera did not follow him but swung back to Mandy Mendez..” And the man in the suit was saying “(mumblegrumblemumblumbleumb. compartmentalized. Who said: “Authorities are puzzled as to who or what caused the destruction.. who had been on the news so much lately for having green hair and for finding the Higgs boson. Once the camera zoomed in Arthur could see that the man in black was none other than celebrity particle physicist Hans Blitzen. A man in a suit approached him and the man in black began hollering at him and the camera panned to them so that Mandy Mendez flew standing up sideways out of the frame. and Blitzen was yelling. isolated.” Stab. all dressed in black with dark sunglasses and bright green hair. he’d appeared on the cover of Time Magazine with the caption: “E = McCool. you cowering giant! Your twilight is upon you! Ashes to ashes and dusk to dusk. stabbing with extra vehemence: “we know. It almost looked like he was trying to start a riot... According to Andrew . and after a couple of seconds the sound came in and Arthur saw the boom mike looming just above some heads. then turned and walked hurriedly away. there’s unidentified organic material in there and you guys know what exactly what it is! You really did it this time! You created a monster and you let it get away. He stabbed the air with an accusatory finger as he said: “You.” The man in the suit tried to calm him but could not. was shouting and gesticulating with rabid enthusiasm. you. stab. you. “One of your little pet projects finally got away from you. one of the ones you had us working on without even knowing it. stab. You gonna blame the terrorists for this on too?" making airfinger quotes around “the terrorists.

It occured to him that the nonhuman world did not know the difference between creation and destruction. Head librarian Kevin Lagos and his trusty sidekick or “bookworm” as they’re known in the parlance of the profession. that the tremors were minor and could not cause this kind of structural damage. while the outer portions are covered with some kind of moss. When I asked him whether or not it could have been related to the tremors in the ground that had been reported by numerous members of the community early in the morning sometime around dawn. He felt like the world was revealing itself and unweaving itself at the same time. the head of the Faith County Special Weapons and Tactics: Bomb Squad Division. when I asked him what else could have caused the wreckage he would not comment.” The screen went blank for a second. no damage resembling the wreckage that we have here has been reported anywhere else in the county. were the first on the scene. he said no. there is now evidence of the detonation of explosives. Thomas. Mandy.136 Trombour.” “Holy shit. we’re going to that clip now. He sat there transfixed with his mouth hanging open.” “Yeah. viscid slime. Although. Finnegan said: “that’s like a quarter mile away. birth and death. terrified. “T. smiling. “You have no idea.” Pagluica. I’ve also received unconfirmed reports that all or most of the books have been removed from the scene.” Finnegan said. aren’t we [anchorman] Frank [Fairchild]? And the anchorman’s disembodied voice said: “that’s right.” Arthur said.” Arthur said. . and in fact.J. That was before evidence had been properly gathered and analyzed. Mandy Mendez said: “Further complicating matters is the presence of organic material of unknown origin. Books I mean. We’re going to roll that right now. that there is a puzzling absence of books in the wreckage. According to my sources the interior portion of the wreckage is mostly covered with a slick. and before they were whisked away by men in hazmat suits I managed to record a brief interview with them. which you would expect to find.

. Lagos and Pagluica stand looking awkward. yeah. Like there was mucus all over everything.) Anyway. Mandy Mendez’s tone was conversational.J. only to find the library reduced to. TJP: And everything was slimy. TJP: Maybe hyacinths-- KL: . It just doesn’t make any sense. when I saw T. I didn’t know why anyone would bomb a library. windier.. There were no firetrucks. coincidentally. “KL”: Kevin Lagos. this. TJP: It smelled like lilacs-- KL: Shut.. MM: Boys. we’d both arrived at work at the same time.. pull in I waited for him and we investigated the wreckage together. (Brief pause. (“MM”: Mandy Mendez. I immediately thought that it had been a bomb because I’d felt the ground rumble.. no men in hazmat suits. “TJP”: Thomas “TJ” Pagluica) MM: So what happened? You guys were the first ones here. right? KL: Yeah. I still don’t. no crowd. The way it happened was.the hell up.137 The screen changed: a tape from the library grounds earlier in the day. . please. Darker.. There is a strong wind blowing into the microphones so that a lot of the speech is baffled by it but there were subtitles.

. KL: It was iridescent.. KL: I’m so sick of your bullshit. TJP: Well.flying everywhere. you see.opinions are like assholes -. A bomb blast would of sent shit -. almost everything on the interior was coated with a slick.you are one. Which there was. . and then the screen went blank for a moment and Frank Fairchild . Anyway.J. said it wasn't -- TJP: No. I looked around for my office because I had some very valuable rare books locked in a file cabinet. but a bomb would of left a charry burny smell. I said it just didn’t seem like a bomb went off because there was no smell the wreckage had fallen mostly inward. a smell I mean. sorry -. KL: Nobody cares about your opinion. And it would of left a smell. This was more like lilacs and hyacinths. KL: Enough with the flowery stuff already..oh. I managed to locate my file cabinet and rescue my buh--” TJP: Nobody cares about your stupid books. After that neither man said anything more as they were both very busy raining blows upon one another about the head and shoulders.. viscid slime. TJP: That had rainbows in it. And I was just completely baffled. And I still thought that it had been a bomb but then T. yes.138 KL: Yes.

” Arthur said.139 materialized out of the void and said: “and there you have it -.” “Okay.” Arthur sat down next to Finnegan on the couch and put the bag from Flask’s down between his feet. You want a drink?” “It’s not the end. It doesn’t matter if people say nigger anymore. dragged it over to himself and took out a can of Budweiser and the bottle of Jameson. feeling not quite surreal.a channel 19 exclusive. “It really is the apocalypse. The man that Mandy Mendez was interviewing was fortyish and had a shaved head and a goatee.” .” “You had to say it didn't you. He let out a weary sigh. “The end’s a nigger. after pausing to let the words sink in. He stared hard into the camera and said: “it was terrorists.” Arthur said.” “It’s the end of the world. A very serious face.” “Apocalypse doesn't mean the end of everything.” Finnegan said. “It’s the end of everything. whereupon Finnegan immediately grabbed it. Urreal. The people in the front rows were agitated but well-behaved.” “Apocalypse now.” “It’s the end. shaking his head. but towards the back things were seething ominously.” and then. said: “they’re evil and they hate our freedom.” Finnegan said wistfully. Feeling urreal. “It’s a Revelation.” Arthur said.” Finnegan said. “It’s a near. Now Mandy Mendez was interviewing people in the crowd. “It’s more like puberty.

“Hear hear. “Fuckin A. I wanna drink. “Here we go. upending the bottle and pouring a shocking amount down gullet.” “Here here. Arthur opened it and took a big first sip.” “What?” “Gimme the whiskey too.” “Alright.” Arthur said.” Finnegan gasped.” Arthur said. “Nothing.” Arthur said. “Whiskey cures dreams right? Gimme the bottle. “I think it really is the apocalypse. He needed to be drunk. "Bier here. Then said: “Whiskey too.” Arthur said. uberty.” Finnegan said. Yeah. “Uberty.” Finnegan laughed. “Here we go.” Arthur said.140 “Puberty. “What’s wrong?” Finnegan asked. “The fucker you talkin bout.” He handed Arthur the bottle.” “Maybe not puberty. Yeah.” .” “Like as in ‘uberty and justice for all’ or more like ‘boy’s no longer excite me once they hit uberty?’” “Never mind." Finnegan took a beer out of the box in the bag and handed it to Arthur.” Finnegan said.

Gimme the bottle." "I thought goats were the devil. There was a fly buzzing around Father .141 Arthur handed the bottle back to him. She had been going on and on while Big Mike and Father Montoya cleaned up inside San Miguel's. "She thinks that the man who was chased out of here was a little devil. "What's that mean?" Mike asked the priest. The day was nearing noon and they were almost done.” he said. “Pow. A shaft of sunlight shining through a high window like a solid beam of translucent gold anchored the church to the sky.” Finnegan said. "Diabolito. "Little devil. “Apocalypse. “Fuckin A.” Arthur said: “Wow.” Finnegan said." the priest said. puzzled. 31." Mike said. He could feel the whiskey raging like wild fire all through his being." The old woman spat the word out onto the dirt floor.” “Sure and Begorrah.

Being nobody he can be anybody. enunciating clearly and using a loud voice when talking to Mike because she considered him slow-witted. but this morning in the real world that goat was just a goat. "No.142 Montoya's head and he shooed it away with his hand." "Man. giving Mike an ominous look as he squatted down by where Geraldo had slept to pick up a crumpled cigarette butt. chuckling mildly. "Goats are associated with him but they're not him." "But how can you tell if they're not?" "I don't know. half joking. "Some things are symbols but things are still things. "Perdida. But then the devil can take any form he chooses because he has no honesty in his heart and no true self. He could take the form of one though. ." the priest said." he said." the priest said." the priest said. shaking his head." she said." the woman said ruefully." Mike said. "No. The Dark One might be a goat in a story. "Peligrosa." "Me too. Maybe you can't. And the man was just a man." She spoke slowly. "This stuff makes me dizzy. "But what about what you told me about things being symbols?" "Well. "Usually things are just things." "You don't think the big devil turned into a goat to chase the little devil – who was a man – out of the church?" Mike asked him." "Cuidado. half-not-knowing what he was talking about.

I mean. "Okay. A warm breeze zephyred in through the doorless doorway and up through the windowless window and out into the sunbright sky. "She is a child of God. and it sounded like shards of stained glass breaking into each other. even the old woman smiled.143 "Is she crazy or something?" Mike asked Father Montoya. "I am a holy fool." the priest said. "You wouldn't think it was possible." "Yes. She’s a child of God. "Yeah. crazily." "It does." Mike said. Then she laughed suddenly. Mike looked at her and shuddered. "It actually looks pretty good. surveying the jobsite. She looked at him freakeyed and laughed a cracked staccato cackle . "Looks like we're almost done." the priest replied." he said. The priest also looked around." the priest said." Mike said. the place is practically made of dirt so you'd think it would always be dirty." "What's that mean?" "What it says. Then looked around. The two men smiled. surveying. "Like a holy fool?" "No." Father Montoya said. nodding. chuckling." the priest said matter-of-factly.

very old. gesturing vaguely with his head. Red like cedar but deeper.144 showing toothless liver-purple gums. But that's just a nickname." Father Montoya said. He was afraid to say His name in front of the priest in church. It made Jesus look like an Indian." "When?" "Whenever they found it. I've always been intrigued by that. up to the pulpit and the altar. "Who?" the priest said absently." "What kind of wood is it?" "I call it Rojo Profundo. which was carved from a dark and gnarly red wood that he could not identify. Yes. "What's it mean?" "Deep red. It is very. "Oh." Mike said. up at the Christ. and this Christ. chewing at it with her gums. are a mystery. He looked away from her. Nobody really knows what kind of wood it is. "He looks different. the knots and grains all seemed to have struggled a great deal to get where they were. He'd been watching the old woman trying to extract some dark congealed substance from the hem of her dress. "Him. The origins and early history of this church." ." Mike said to the priest. The legend is that it was already here. darker.

but before it got out of hand the priest reprimanded her. never mind. Wordlessly the priest turned and walked out of the church into the sunlight.. bringing the barrel over to the truck and hoisting it up over the side and into the back." the priest said then to Mike. A crow flew in the window and perched on the shoulder of the Christ. father?" .. right?" "Yeah. If they'd talked about stuff like this in Sunday school when he was a kid it would have sucked less. continuing their previous conversation. "So. "What's the big idea?" The priest turned and said: "we're done." Mike said." And the crow said: "Ra!" "Whoever found it. Mike threw his broom into the green barrel and half-dragged it after himself as he followed the priest out into the light..145 "They who?" Mike asked him. "Anything else you need help with. The old woman shouted bitter oaths at it and it began to shout back. but. father. The crow cawed at her from the Christ and she turned around and shuffled back into the church shouting insults at it. piqued. "Which was who?" Mike asked him. laughing confusedly. and she said "sorry. "Hey!" he said. The old woman stood in the doorless doorway watching them.." Mike said.

waving his hand blindly in the light. "Enjoy the first day of spring." "It's not really spring yet. "Go get yourself some breakfast or lunch or something." "You too." Mike said. It was turning into a beautiful day. He ." he said. smiling with his eyes." Father Montoya said. opening his eyes to look and smile at Mike as he waved goodbye.146 "No. "You need a ride home?" "Thank you. and pulled away. "And thank you very much for your help." "Sure thing. And the girl." the priest said. placing his cane neatly across his lap. A good first day of spring." Father Montoya said. He hooked a left onto Roybal and headed towards the Java Hut for coffee and a pastry." the priest said. The dark skin on his face took on an aura of burnished gold in the light. closing his eyes and tilting his head back to catch the full warmth of the sunlight. Mike realized that it was true. walking over to the bench and sitting down. "I think I'll just sit here for a while. Mike thought for a second. no thank you. "You're right. looking. father. You're probably starving. The priest smiled." As soon as he heard this. "Yes it is. getting into his truck. "Okay then." he said." he said. He rolled down both windows and turned up the radio. "Have a good rest of your day." Mike said. no.

it was that gay guy and the slutty new age chick. heading over to Bobby’s to check on him. As he drove to her. and thinking about the murder. The word “terrorists” had sealed it. Why here? he wondered. the ideal.. the goddess. But she wasn’t plain.. but he could never tell with girls: they were all a mystery to him. so he adjusted his course. In the City of Faith. There was that rich kid Chris who was always hanging around her. what with the murder and Stevie Salazar freaking out and everything. But he didn’t go there anymore. Too much hurt. But she wasn’t working. but Mike could tell by how they interacted that there wasn’t anything going on.. Friends. So he got a cheese Danish and some coffee and left. telling himself that he really should go check on Bobby first and telling himself that that was what he was doing even as he drove to the library instead. in his mind’s eye he kept seeing her.147 didn’t even know her name. He flicked it on and tuned it from the volunteer fire department frequency over to the CFPD main channel hoping for some scuttlebutt on the Jim Daniels homicide. Why would they blow up a library? Do they hate our culture? Or think our books are full of lies? . he’d been there. and would rather orbit around them endlessly – sexlessly – than have an intimate relationship with someone else. someone else who wasn’t the dream. They were just friends. but the way that she looked at him sometimes it seemed. There wasn’t any homicide dope but it sounded like something interesting was going on over at the library.. gotten his full attention: he had to get to that scene. He had a simple rule based on years of bitter experience: don’t linger – that whole friend thing can drive you crazy. her dark face and bottomless eyes. She didn’t seem to have a boyfriend. Figures. He’d been pretty shaken up the night before. even the plain ones. Yeah. which was usually always on because he was a volunteer fireman but which he’d turned off while plowing snow. Terrorists. Too old for that shit. Some girls have those male friends that they have no romantic interests in but who are madly in love with them. Mike thought to turn on his scanner. This itty bitty landlocked little city. He’d been there.

Bobby walked in in nothing but his jockeys. He scratched himself and belched. in a bad mood now. He stood there in his underpants with his hairy belly hanging down over the elastic. Now there was this thing on the news that terrorists had bombed the library. Not to mention the worst PMS of her life. changing colors as it reflected the t. and after that she'd gone on the pill for a while because the miscarriage had been the saddest thing that she had ever known and she couldn't bear the thought of going through anything like that again. She'd finally gone off the pill after convincing (with minimal physical coercion) Bobby to try and conceive again. It never ends. . He looked awful. Celia was watching t. She'd miscarried years before.v. “Is it all over the news?” he asked her. He picked his nose. Also.. So she was ready to stay home and have a baby. He took a long sip of his beer. But in recent months she'd begun to feel unafraid and even hopeful. since hearing about the crucifiction and knowing that Bobby was somehow mixed up in all of it.148 Why do they hate our freedom? 32. bloodshot eyes and his mouth hanging open and some drool drying on his cheek. with sleepcrazy cartoon hair like he’d had electric dreams. she’d lost her job.v. a new spring had dawned in her soul and she'd decided that she was ready to try again.

but there’s this thing at the library right now. smiling.” she said. He didn’t feel well at all. “Yeah. . “Yer not gonna yell at me are you?” “Nah. his eyes itched and his mouth got very dry. not in response to his question but more to express her sheer disappointment at ever having married him. “Was it on the news?” “A little. I think I’ll start drinkin too. “You drinkin already?” she asked him bitterly. “Jussalittle hair o’ the dog. Then she ashed into her palm again and blew it out over the carpet where it fell down in tiny gray shreds like dead little stars. a feeling of impending doom came over him and his legs buckled.” he said. “Hey!” he said. then ashing her cigarette into her cupped palm and throwing the ash out over the floor and watching it fall down to the carpet like hot snow.” She got up and walked out to the kitchen. gesturing vaguely at the television. What’s the use?” she scoffed. “Hey yerself. but he did not fall.” she snarled. He took a sip of beer and belched again.” Bobby said.149 She shook her head. coming back with a big bottle of tequila. his stomach began to squirm nervously. She was not in the mood for his shit. She looked him up and down and let out a sigh of despair.” he said. swinging her gargantuan ass back and forth in a display of power. “Actually. “Oh baby please don’t. He rubbed his eyes with one hand and took a sip of his beer with the other. “The murder?” she asked.

She unscrewed the top of the bottle and drank from it.” Bobby said.” then turning up the t. laughing bitterly again. stood there unsurely on scared legs like a foaling calf.” she grunted. Big bad mommapocalyptic gulps. lit it with a match and flicked the lit match at him. spit in it and pushed her cigarette into it.” . She wiped her mouth on her forearm. “Hey!” he said. even more. “Why don’t you go to the store and get me some muthafuckin limes. “Now.” she grunted.” she said. with the remote control.” he said.” Bobby said.v. “or I’ll really give your stank brown ass somethin to pray about. lowering her ass into the giant crater that had been there since the first time she ever sat upon it.” turning up the volume of the t.150 “I’m gonna.v.” she said.” Bobby said. “Oh no. then took out another cigarette. “Maybe just count to ten first. “Hey yerself. “You better believe I’m gonna.” She sat back down on the couch. righted himself. “Not for you. Then she picked up the cap from the tequila bottle. He swooned. Powerful portentious gulps. “Take it easy. “I think if I’m gonna drink beer and tequila I’m gonna need some limes. fell leaning into a wall. “We need limes.” she said. it died with a dull hiss. a cold sweat immediately drenched his entire trembling body. He felt the blood drain from his face. okay?” “Fuck all that. “I thought there was no smoking in the house.” she growled. jumping out of the way. “Lord have mercy. baby. Long frightening gulps.

he thought. And oh. praying all the while.151 “Yes’m. closing the door behind himself and breathing a sigh of relief to be out of the house." he squealed. There was a gas station at the corner. "Don't just stand there!" she yelled at him. In the bedroom he opened it and chugged half of it immediately. “I am. And glad to be out of the house and away from his wife. swallow him whole and shit him out into the tenth circle of hell. He kind of hoped that they wouldn’t so that he’d . "Hurry!" she roared. But still.” he said meekly. to flee. saying a Hail Mary as he put on his left shoe and an Our Father with the right. But just then the window flew open violently. finishing his beer and getting another one from the kitchen on his way to the bedroom. but he knew that she would find him and devour him. chugging the other half of his beer when he was done. the air and the light. He desperately wanted to leave her. The smell of spring conjured in his mind young girls in skirts and the light played like warm mother music on his skin. He winced and went on his way. Even with an awful hangover the air and the light felt so good. He was glad that the murder hadn't been a big deal on the news.) Down the walk out to the sidewalk. then put on his purple sweatpants and an old t-shirt and his socks and shoes. He went back out through the living room to the front door begging God sotto voce to please just make it stop and he hurried out the door as fast as he could without seeming to be afraid because he knew how angry that made her. it might be worth the risk. to get out from under her. (He had to walk because his driver’s license was suspended. then slammed it shut again. They had a lot of different things there but he didn’t know about limes.

it was a nice day out and just to be out in the sunshine and the warm wind felt good to him. “Where in front of my face?” The guy eyed him with stoned paranoia. “Hey. “There’s like a hunrit of em right there. "Where?" Bobby asked. “Right there.” “I don’t see. “Where?” Bobby said. “There’s like a thousand fuckin limes. “Right where yer lookin at.” Bobby said.” the guy said. Plus. “You got limes in here?” he asked the guy.” he said.” he said.” the guy said. blew his bangs away from his eyes and lackadaisically leaned a little from where he was to look at the limes. furrowing his brow. “Right in front of your face." The guy stuck out his lower lip a little. He walked into the store. There’s like fifty of em.” Bobby said. perplexed. “How’s it goin?” “It’s goin. gesturing to a big basket of limes by the microwave burritos and the premade sandwiches. looking directly at the basket with the limes in it.” the guy behind the counter said. vexed. “Right there.” The guy was young and shaggy with droopy eyes and sloped shoulders.152 have to walk further away to check the Conoco over by St. To her. Maybe if he stayed out long enough she would drink herself to sleep. Francis and take longer getting back home. "I can't see em. “Hey.” .

bro. growled: “Listen. The guy had a very blank look. My wife is a very large.” “I’m not fuckin with you.” Bobby. on me. with cupped hands.” Bobby said. “Forget it. After a couple of seconds he said nervously: “hold out your hands. Take them. and if I don’t come home with some limes fucking rapidimente she will wrap me up in the living room carpet and eat me like a taquito. Just take em. guy – don’t fuck with me.” And then moved cautiously back behind the counter. I been through some crazyass fuckin shit the past coupla days and I really don’t need.” the guy said.” Bobby said. eyeing Bobby warily. walking around from the counter to where Bobby was. “There’s like a million goddam limes right there in that basket that you’re looking at. cupped together like the guy had his. here yuh go. dropping the limes on the floor without even noticing. The other costumer gave him a wide berth and eyed him . speechless with exasperation.153 But the basket was empty. and the guy put the limes in his hands and said: “here. very angry now.” and he turned and left. “Dude. then. he picked up a bunch of them: to Bobby it looked like he was trying to scoop up some invisible water or something and he wondered if the guy was on drugs or what.” Bobby said. powerful and angry woman. “You’re crazy. Free. Bobby. I’m going to the Conoco. The guy held out his hands and said: “Here. A look of relief came across the guy’s face as he saw another customer coming through the door. slowly and hesitantly put out his hands. feeling incredibly stupid.” the guy said. can’t take anymore. “But the basket’s empty.” Bobby turned to the guy and glowered. watched him.” “Quit it. like he was getting tricked by a three-year-old.

right there. He wanted to ask them if they were in love. The guy could’ve just told him that though instead of playing games. In a way it was kind of relieving that they hadn’t had any limes: that way he didn’t have to go home for longer. They ignored him. “There’s a buncha limes in there.” Bobby searched around. He said: “Sure do. stirring the crushed ice and beer bottles and limes around with his hand until it got too cold. “Fuckin nuts. but he didn’t bother. that they should avoid marriage no matter what and stay in love instead. He walked into the Conoco. Oh well. They were smoking cigarettes and talking about extraterrestrials and the public library.” Bobby said to himself as he walked through the parking lot back to the sidewalk. He couldn’t find any limes and he tried to put his hand in his mouth to warm it up but it wouldn’t fit so he stuck it down his pants but that hurt so he took it out and put it under his armpit and squeezed his . The barrel was full of seven-and-a-half-ounce Corinitas. and to tell them that if they were they should not get married.” he said. a boy who looked like a girl and a girl who looked like a swan. “Yeah. shoulders and arms. “With the beers?” Bobby asked him.” “Hi. He walked to the Conoco at a leisurely pace. “You got any limes in here?” The guy was old with big eyes and a crazy beard.” the guy said. crushed ice.” and pointed to a big yellow barrel that had “Corona” written on it in dark blue letters with a picture of a crown underneath it.154 bemusedly. On his way he passed two young people. raising an eyebrow at his purple sweatpants and his crazy hair as he stormed out. The guy behind the counter said: “hi there.” the guy said. and limes. “There’s like a ton of em in there. Tattoos of unidentifiable animals on his neck.

He didn’t need that.” “I put em in there myself. half bemused. bagged his beers. That was pretty warm. gave him his change and said: “have a nice day.” the guy said. He took out three Coronitas and said: “fuck it. “There’s a friggin shitload of em in there.” The man was flabbergasted. He asked the guy: “In the barrel?” “Yeah.” and the guy gave him a bewildered look and then rang him up. It’s not easy being the only sane man in a world full of lunatics.” “There’s like a fucking zillion goddam limes in there.” “You too.” the man said.” and he started towards Albertson’s. I put em in there my own self you wingnut. “There’s a whole goddam truckload of em in that thur barrel. “There’s just little beers. . The whole world was going crazy. Look harder. bro. took his money. He hoped it wouldn’t make his hand smelly. “I just looked.” the guy said.” the guy said.155 arm over it. which was like a mile from where he was. half incredulous. sotto voce: “You fuckin wackjob. wondering if Bobby was joking or on drugs.” Bobby said as he walked out the door and then. “I’m tellin you. “I looked pretty hard. The way things had been going lately were enough to make a sane man mad.” Bobby said. not the way things were going lately. he said to himself.” Bobby said. “No there’s not. He just didn’t feel like getting tangled up with another counter jockey.” Bobby shook his head. just gimme three beers and a brown paper bag. laughing a little. It seemed like everyone was going crazy lately.

” Arthur slurred drunkenly. And he giggled strangely to himself as they walked down the road. we’ll never get back home. It’s a shame. “Congratulations. Can’t even go out and get his wife some limes for her liquor. “Wow. If things keep going on like this. There’s all kindsa fruitloops.” He laughed. but since has become simply noon. 33. I can’t believe I got through that. I already know that one. A man’s not even safe leaving his own house anymore. not that one. You got that right. and no-one knows why but I think that I do but I don’t think that I’ll ever tell it to you. Then: “Don’t ya know any good darty limricks laddy?” “There once was a man from Nantucket --” “No. but nimbly.156 I hear that. wingnuts and wackjobs you gotta look out for in this world. he said back to his self. his self said back. still managing to articulate properly.” . "Noon was once known as the Hour of Nones.” Finnegan said. his self said.

157
“Oh yeah?”

“Yeah,” he said. “Dude, I fuckin am the man from Nantucket,” and fell off the couch laughing at his own joke.

Arthur shook his head, smiling. “Dude,” he said. “You’re hammered.”

“Dude,” Finnegan said. “You’re hammered.”

“That’s what I meant.”

“You know any others?”

“What, alcoholics?”

“No, jackass. Dirty limricks.”

“A couple,” Arthur said.

“Tell em. No Diceman though, I already know all those.”

“Okay,” Arthur said, and thought for a few seconds. It was hard for him to hold onto his thoughts because they were all slippery from drink. “Okay,” he said. “I got one.”

“Tell it.”

I will, just shut up and lemme tell it.”

158
“Fine, I’m shutting up.”

“Okay, good,” Arthur said. He took a deep breath.

“Not sayin a peep,” Finnegan said.

“All right! Shut it.”

“Alright,” Finnegan said.

Arthur began. “There once--”

“Do you know the one about the Eskimo?” Finnegan blurted, then burst into laughter again, falling down off of the couch and onto the floor, clutching his belly.

“You’re such an asshole.”

Finnegan said: “Seriously, though. Tell it this time, I’ll be quiet.”

“No way, man. Forget it. Put some Jobbs on.”

“I will,” Finnegan said. “Just tell the rhyme.”

“Fuck off.”

“Oh come on. Don’t be such a baby.”

“Fine,” Arthur said. Then, quickly, before Finnegan could interrupt him again:

159

There once was a man from Mass With big shiny balls made of brass He clanged them together And made stormy weather And lightning shot out of his ass

“That sucked,” Finnegan said.

“You ruined it. You should’ve just let me tell it, but you built it up with your interruptions; your insufferable coxcombry.”

“My what?”

“Your shenanigans.”

Finnegan just laughed at him for a while, then got up off the floor and swaying drunkenly, grinning he said: “You say you wanna listen to some rock n roll music?”

“Yeah,” Arthur said.

“Cool man, right on. You say you wanna rock?”

“Yessir. Do you have Second Hand Jobbs?”

“The tribute album?”

“Yeah.”

160

“Yeah, but I don’t wanna listen to that. I don’t really like it.”

“Can we just listen to Babyshambles doing Devil in My Doorway?”

“No, dude. I got somethin to put on. Don’t worry, you’ll like it. I got just the shit you need right here,” he said, holding up an unlabeled CD.

“Wait a second," Arthur said. Then there was a moment of silence that was almost perfectly serene, which he knew from experience as the calm before a storm...

"Yah dude," Finnegan said, twinkling. Twinkling so Finneganly now that he’d had a good portion of the dog. “The new album: Blowhand at the Rim of the World, downloaded from Fucklars dotcom.”

Arthur felt the hairs on his neck go up. “Have you listened to it yet?”

“No, dude, but Hex” – (Finnegan’s rock n roll friend from NYC) – “said it’s better than all the other albums put together.”

“What?”

“That’s what he said.”

“Hyperbole, I’m sure.”

“I’m inclined to believe him.”

“Hearsay.”

161

“Hex knows.”

“I dunno, dude. Sometimes when things are new everyone gets all fuckin creamy over em but then they’re not that great.”

“No dude. Hex doesn’t fuck around when it comes to rock n roll.”

“I dunno,” Arthur said. “It’s just such a huge proclamation.”

“No,” Finnegan said, shaking his head, disagreeing but smiling. “I can’t believe you’re doubting Hex’s integrity.”

“I dunno...” Arthur said. “I just don’t know.”

“Well let’s find out.”

“I just need a drink,” Arthur said, grabbing the whiskey off the floor.

“Alright,” Finnegan said. “I’m definitely putting it in. Get ready.”

“I’m ready,” Arthur said, and took a swig of whiskey.

“That’s what I like to hear,” Finnegan said. He put the disc in. “We’ll smoke this.” He produced an enormous fatty from somewhere. “Then maybe I’ll tell you about the cops and Geraldo and all that shit.”

“Holy shit,” Arthur said, gawking at the joint.

162
“Good shit, too; fuckin neon crystal chronic hydroponic. All that shit,” Finnegan said.

A line of guitar feedback faded in, a high thin electric blue line.

A tension filled the air.

34.

She'd made him turn down the music. It hurt her head. She was spinning. Again. She just wanted to go home, curl up on the couch with a blanket and watch t.v. Drink water, sleep, repeat. "You wanna get a movie?" she asked him.

"Maybe," Chris said. "I gotta go check on Granny first. She was all worked up this morning so I left without making her lunch. Usually in the morning I make her a turkey salad sandwich or two and put em in the fridge. One a those and a glass of Jim Beam and she's out for a good three or four hours."

Maya laughed a little until it hurt her head too much and she had to stop. "What was she gettin all worked up about?”

"The usual, y'know. Bein a hundred years old, can't do anything anymore, can't drive the car, nobody listens to her, hates her diapers, tellin me I'm no good, world's goin to hell...”

"Well it’s good of you putting up with her and helping her."

And Ash is extremely lovable. then asked: "You think I should bring Ash in? I heard it's good for old people to be with animals." Chris said." "No way dude. badly (how else?)." he sighed hopelessly. He has been heartbroken before. "Oh. slowing the truck to a stop and putting it in park (the truck wouldn't fit in the garage so he had to park it in the driveway. but he always went in through the garage. He's the cutest goddam thing I've ever seen. because he didn't want her to think he was some kind of monster. but he wanted to say it out loud: I want her to die.. I don't want her to suffer. I mean the way I feel now there's a chance I might throw up on her but still. because Granny always kept the front door to the house locked because she was afraid of hooligans coming in there when she was all alone and robbing and/or raping her). I haven't seen Granny in a long time.163 "I guess so. she does. "I hear ya. but he couldn't." "Your funeral." he said." "What? She doesn't like animals?" "No. she's not so bad. She'd . enough is enough but he is afraid of what she’ll think and the shadow she’ll leave behind when she leaves.. "So why don't I go in with you this time. I just want her to die already. He wanted to tell her the truth." "What?" "Maybe if she sees you're with me she'll be less of a pain and you can just make her lunch and then we'll go to my house and get lifted. how he really felt." Maya said." she said. "But sometimes I just get tired of it. pulling into the driveway.

then opening her door. I'll leave him here." she said. But we have to leave the windows open a little so he has fresh air. I like your Granny. No thank you. turning off the truck. "Y'know. getting out. "I don't see why you're always complaining about her. "And if we bring him in then she'll fall desperately in love with him and be all up my ass to get her a goddam kitten every morning for the rest of my life. She'd love him. opening his door." she said." And Ash said: "Mraul!" She closed the door and they walked down the driveway and into the garage.164 absolutely fall in love with him. I don't think I wanna take in another thing that can't take care of itself." he said." "Fine. so I'll end up getting her a kitten and maybe it'll make her happy but I'll have to take care of it and potty train it and feed it and clean out the litterbox and pick up the goddam wet warm puky hairballs that make me heave. And what's even worse is that I wouldn't even say no. "Okay. fine. I'll be back." he said." "So what's the problem?" "I just told you." "No." "Okay. you mean. adjusting her window. petting Ash on the head and saying: "Stay right here baby. I already had to clean up her shit. but not so open that he can escape." "The rest of her life. Didn't she buy you your truck?" .

a seeping sepia smell. then back to the kitchen with a puzzled look on his face. She'd never known her grandparents and had never been in a very old person's house before. an ambience. was that sometimes he actually believed it.. smirking. If she's awake you can come in and say hi. It's like. see if she's asleep.. and more shameful. It was strange." He walked on down the hall to her room at the end." he said. "Yeah. almost a non-smell or an absence of smell. "You smell the old-person smell?" he asked. "Weird. yeah. "Really old people's houses have this kinda funny smell.. opening the door that led to the kitchen. They walked up a couple of carpeted stairs and into the kitchen. It was in the air. bumping something or talking too loud." What was worse. whereupon Maya noticed a strange unfamiliar smell that made her feel uneasy.." "Okay. Like a museum or a library or something... Not just a smell but a feeling. I think she thinks she owns me sometimes though. “ but she knew it. into and out." she said. "Where?" . It was subtle." he said. "Wait here. "Is that what that is?" "Yeah." he said. She said nothing. "I'll go check on her.165 "Yeah. barely there." he said droopily. "She's not there. Suddenly she was afraid of making a wrong move.

.." "Sure." "Well." he said." he trailed off. Not the steep ones in between the floors in this house. pinned under a magnet shaped like a little lamb. Usually if she's gonna do something she talks about it for days." "I'm sure everything's alright. It's weird." “Did she have a doctor's appointment or anything?" "She must have. Her life is so bereft of significant events that even the most trivial social occasions are like these big friggin deals. Then: "can I get a drink of water? I got some nasty hangover dehydration. She's not in her bedroom or her recliner or the bathroom or anywhere." With a phone number underneath. tapping his foot on the linoleum..." she said. The note said: "Chris – I came and took Granny on account of how terrorists bombed the library – Uncle Pete." "Weird." "What about upstairs? or downstairs?" "She can't climb stairs. After a while he looked up at her and said "I don't know if I should be worried or not. She'd been standing in front of the refrigerator door and when she turned around to open it she saw that there was a note in the door. even weeks beforehand." "Okay." she said.166 "Anywhere. "There's a Brita pitcher in the fridge.. .. Someone must have come over and gotten her or something.

" . Jesus H Chris be praised. I was getting worried." Chris said.167 "There's a note here." "Why?" "The note. and she took it off of the door and handed it to him. but I kinda wanna check it out anyway." he laughed." she said. "Well. "Okay." she said. "But could we go to my house and drop off the cat and smoke first?" "Of course. I be they’re drunker'n a coupla sailors by now. "Who's Uncle Pete?" Maya asked. "My crazy uncle." He shook his head and began to laugh. While he read it she opened the refrigerator and took out the water pitcher." "Cool." he said. He probably brought her out to his friggin trailer up in Wastralia. 'Terrorism at the library. I might just crash at my house. "So you wanna go to my house and get lifted?" "I was thinkin about cruisin over around by the library." Maya said.' I mean the odds are pretty good that Sneaky Pete was exaggerating a little just to make it seem like he was bein a good guy or something." "Okay. that's a pretty good god damn thing if I do say so myself... "Uncle Sneaky Pete musta got early parole. relieved. "He's always in and outta jail and shit and whenever he gets a chance he tries to friendly up with Granny so she'll put him in the will. "Fuckin A." Chris said.

" "Let's." he said.168 "Okay. "Let's go then." .

" before mellowing out into the slow creeping Arab blues of "Sea of Sand. Do you need a cigarette?" "No thanks. the rocking reaching it's apotheosis in the harddriving gospel and delta blues tinged rave up "Poppa Was a Rolling Koan. And now it was over. I'm sorry I doubted him. "Hex was right. even the slow songs like "Bleeding's Easy. transfixed." Finnegan took a cigarette out and lit it. "He was. "I don't need anything." Arthur said." . Neither man had moved from his seat (except for when Finnegan tried to get up and dance during "The Real Mirage of the Mirroreyed Monstergods" but his legs buckled and he fell back into his seat)." Finnegan said. transformed. They sat there happily blasted with their mouths open in slackjawed amazement." with an extended instrumental section in which Slim Jim Jobb really took his guitar work to a whole nother level. "He most certainly was.169 34." which was like a combination of Jimi Hendrix's "Red House. agape."Miles Davis’ "Flamenco Sketches" and Ravel’s "Bolero. "Wow. agawk. agog." Arthur said. agape. Transmused." he said. transfigured. For a while they just sat. Healing's Hard. They sat there dumbstruck as the last words to the last song were sung. Finnegan said: "I need a cigarette. Silence." which led without stopping into a scorching rendition of Robert Johnson's "If I had Possession Over Judgment Day. "Seriously.” rocked. Every song on the album." Arthur said.

” “Rock n’ Roll High School.” . cafeteria.” “Yeah dude." "That's a big ten-four good buddy." "Fuckin perfectamente borracho Holmes." "Amen brudder." Finnegan said.” “Elementary.” “No." "Yea.. "I feel like I'm twenty again." "And I'm totally freakin hammered.” “Out here we is stoned immaculate my dear Watson. I mean let’s go check out the library..” “The library. "Totally rejuvenated.170 "That was fucking awesome." "You got that right. verily.

” “Ohhhh.” “So let’s go. right?” “Probably. and he’d already had to deal with them once today and so (Arthur thought) would not want to be anywhere near them. “There might be cops there. It bulged conspicuously through the t-shirt that way so he went into the closet and got his big old Lions #20 Sanders football jersey and put that on.” “Alright.” Arthur said.. Finnegan breathed a sigh of relief. I think it’ll be lots of cops and reporters and all kindsa people there. I gotta go to the bathroom.” “Juh?” “Cause I got friggin psycho Geraldo lookin for me. “I have to change. You go first and I’ll put my ensemble together.” in yellow letters. “Okay. He took the gun out from under the bed and tucked it into his waistband.” “Okay.” Finnegan said. yeah.” “You might be right. Might probably be the safest place you can be. Usually Finnegan hated cops. He put on his clothes quickly. thinking it over. “Well. but Finnegan said: “good..171 “I dunno. The jersey was thick . comprehension dawning. he nodded his head. Finnegan staying there while Arthur continued through to the bathroom.” They both got up and walked to Finnegan’s room. he hadn’t seemed to notice the bullet hole in the mirror. a pair of jeans and a black t-shirt with the Guinness logo on it that said: “Guinness is Good For You: Gives You Strength.” Arthur said.” Finnegan said.

washed his hands. unable to see him clearly: the pages of the book she'd been reading had been reflecting the . laughed that cracked laugh (though not too loud) and came back out. Smiling.” “Cool.172 baggy and concealed the gun well. He went into the bathroom. Now the only person he had to fear was himself. She looked up. “All set?” he asked him. “Yeah. took a piss and adjusted the gun. Sound of a toilet flushing. stepping into her sunlight. "Excuse me. Looking down at her." he said. “I just gotta piss and we’ll go. looked at himself in the mirror and grinned strangely. He put his shoes and socks on. They left for the library.” Arthur said. then water running. projecting his shadow onto her. Finnegan was glad he had his dead brother’s gun with him. Arthur came back out of the bathroom. 35.” Finnegan said.

and held up the book that she’d been reading so that he could see the cover: How to Find Your Angels and Make Them Work for You.” She put the book down and started looking through her bag.” she said. gave him one and kept one for herself. A crow somewhere said: “All!” Laughing.” she said. Then after a little more looking: “Ah-ha. No wedding ring.” he said.” “Well I think you look like an angel.” she said. “I know they’re in here somewhere.” she said. but her eyes began to adjust and slowly his face began to differentiate out of the darkness. “Maybe I am. My own mother called me diabolito.173 bright noonlight and now in his shadow she was something like snowblind. with bright sunlight radiating out from above. brown hair with streaks of gold pulled back into a loose ponytail. “You wanna sit down?” she asked him. The wind spiraled around the perimeter of the park whispering through the trees. “You look like an angel. She was thirtyish with tawny skin. he said: “Nobody ever called me an angel before. “Well. And I would know. “What?” he laughed. here they are.” and she took out a pack of Camels and took out two. He had a sleeveless undershirt on and tattoos of diamondback rattlesnakes on his arms and shoulders. behind. “I didn’t know angels smoked cigarettes. no rings at . like a halo. smiling back at him. Soon she saw him more clearly: his head was directly in front of the sun like an eclipse. scooting over on her blanket to make room. his head. “You got an extra cigarette?” he asked her.

” she said. . “What?” “Gimme my lighter. Now the sun shined on them both..” and she stuck out her open palm. cough it up. nodding.” he said. “C’mon.” “It’s cool. “Me and my friends are always stealing each other’s lighters. Tank-top over sportsbra.174 all on her fingers..” But he was thinking of a different game. kind of surprised.” she said. her fingers crawling in place in a spidery come-hither gesture. though he had no friends. thighs sculpted yet soft-looking. “Sorry.” she said.” he said. taking the lighter out of his pocket. He handed the lighter back to her. sitting down next to her.” “Me too. Force of habit.” he said.” she said. “Yes.” he said. “You won’t get it that easy. “A game. “Jess. he lit his cigarette with it and then he put it in his pocket.” he said. A tattoo of a shamrock on her ankle. “Don’t mind if I do. “It’s like a game. She lit her cigarette and handed him her lighter.” “Oh.” she said. “Not so fast. her tone mock-disciplinarian. Short blue shorts. “I’m Jess.

. “That’s cool..” she said. I’ve seen em play it like five times. smiling. wonder-wide..” It was easy for him to tell lies (and change names) because he had no honesty in his heart. “So what’s your name?” she asked in a playful coquettish tone. but he always liked the idea of things burning.” He had no idea what she was talking about.” she said. smiling slyly. and now that there was no Hell left in it to wear. “I used to hate all that kind of music but I got really into it at college.. Batting her eyelashes.” he said. my dad named me after the song by the Allman Brothers. He needed a new name.. “I like that one.. and smiled. it was time to shed it like a skin. delighted. “Yeah. eyes shining. tried not to think of one – the name that you would want to give yourself is always false – so he emptied himself of everything and let it rise up out of his inner nothingness. I once even saw Phish play it and it was like. He was done with “Geraldo. I’ve seen the Allman Brothers a bunch..” He didn’t know what song she was talking about and he’d never thought all men brothers either. Jessica. “That’s a good song. After a moment he smiled and said: “Gabe. Gabriel.. “Trey was on fire.” he’d really worn Hell out of that one.” a look of reverence came over her face. . but call me Gabe.175 “Yeah.” “You even have an angel’s name. “Jess. He wasn’t sure how to respond.” he said. nodding. I’m Gabriel.” she said.

his jacket and his liquor from where he’d been sitting. laughing to himself the whole way back to Jess’s blanket. then flipped back to another part of the book.” she said.” “You’ll see. the messenger of the Greco-Roman gods.” he said. “Well I hope you’re enjoying yourself. laughing. I don’t know if I’m pronouncing it right. who invented writing and was a. the one who fell.” She flipped quickly to the index in the back of the book.’ It says that in the Bible Gabriel is a messenger of The Lord. But he just could not stop laughing. ‘Like Hermes. He got up and went to get his clothes. Meaning: God is my strength. “What’s so funny Gabriel?” she asked him.176 “Really?” “Yeah. He laughed and said: “I’m not that religious. Lemme look it up in my book.” she said.” “Yeah. or Mercury.’" “What’s that?” Gabriel asked. “Here it is. The only angel I ever knew was Lucifer. “I don’t know. a ‘psychopomp. and set them down. He was. there’s a part about him in here but I haven’t gotten to it yet. trying not to laugh but then laughing along with him a little although she did not know why. see if it says anything about the name Gabriel. his goldflecked teeth glittering in the bright sunlight like a delirium. “Here – it says: ‘Name: Gabriel. puzzled.. ..” she said.” she said.

. or her husband Bobby in particular (even though it was the endlessly recurring presence of Absence that she really had a problem with. Men disappearing time after time after time. half-drunk and chainsmoking. . but as the last man to be there before the latest recurrence Bobby became the object of her outrage) and Absence in general. It wasn’t even Bobby’s failure to return that hurt and scared and infuriated her most. ever since her father left when she was just a girl. Celia sat on the couch in her bathrobe. 36. it was that Absence that she hated. Later. only appeared that they might vanish. her hero during her early teenage years. watching t. grumbling. and all the friends and lovers who’d come and gone.. Although she didn’t really know it. she couldn’t believe she hadn’t expected it. but the return of the Absence Where The Man Ought To Be.177 They sat there in the light. she asked him what are you laughing at? and she begged him to tell her but he would not tell her and she said aww to hell with you and he was trying to stop but he just could not stop laughing. moved away when she was sixteen and never came back not even for Christmas. and he began to laugh again and a crow up in a tree cried: “all!” and he kept on laughing. occasionally reciting bitter litanies of derogatory epithets in a ritual incantation directed at Absence.. that scared and scarred her. deep down that’s all they really wanna do ((which is why you got to keep a leash on them)) and now this situation with Bobby being gone for over an hour when he could have walked down to the store five or six times. He looked into her eyes and she watched the reflection of a flying crow warped on the convexity of his sunglasses as it flew. left. mumbling and growling. her big brother Royce.v.

The Disaster Channel and The Panic Channel. The library story was on two of the major cable news networks. said: “. libraries have become targets for terrorist strikes because they symbolize the free exchange of information that the terrorists consider decadent and obscene. smuggle it into the United States and detonate it in the City of Faith public library. audience. she said that the United States had been asking for terrorist strikes with decades of arrogant and unethical foreign policy. where the fat man.S.and we’re not gonna take it anymore!” yelling into the microphone so that his words came out all crumply and distorted.v.v. Celia could see Chris there standing in a crowd gathered around some fat guy who was getting interviewed. He’d probably walked to the bar. confiding to the t. and how a terrorist might obtain one on the black market (“gooey bombs becoming more available than ever before thanks to the U. covered in a viscid slime – was a “gooey bomb.178 Eating smoking drinking eating and smoking she sat fatly in her bathrobe in her crater on the couch. who wore an Albuquerque Isotopes baseball cap and looked vaguely familiar.N. FoxNews and MSNBC.”). didn’t care about Bobby. and why they chose the City of Faith public library (“Because they hate our freedom of information and they hate the Great Faith of all Americans“ which may have been a metaphor. really. On the Disaster Channel they had live footage from the scene of the attack. On FoxNews they had a terrorism expert explaining how a “gooey bomb” might work. On MSNBC they had a guy explaining that U. that Bobby was a lousy no-good sonofabitch. but the t.” a weapon whose existence is so shrouded in mystery and secrecy that three quarters of the world’s leading terrorism experts don’t even believe that it exists.. She only saw the end of the interview. and she told it that it was better off not caring about him because if you cared about him he would only hurt you.) Apparently the only thing that could have left the library the way it was – reduced to ruins.v.. She wondered if he would ever come back or if this time he was really gone for good. After that a young woman was interviewed. but he hadn’t been yelling for the benefit of the t. as much . and two of the fringe infotainment channels.

" Celia said.” Celia sighed. And it is the beginning. said: "What's shakin eggs n bacon?" "I just saw you on t. And more and more people keep showing up. happened?" "What – you mean to the library?" . He raised his fist into the air and the crowd began to shout and pump their fists. the end of days.179 as for the crowd that had gathered. It's crazy. back to the Disaster channel while she waited for Chris to pick up on the other end..v. According to a city official I spoke to earlier today the National Guard is on its way. "Yeah! That lady from The Disaster Channel with the big rack is here. She got up and went to the bedroom where her purse was and got her cellphone and dialed Chris up as she walked back to the couch. The police have been keeping things under control but it seems to me that there are a lot more people here than the police could handle if they got out of control.. The camera panned over to the Disaster Channel’s intrepid field correspondent Trish Treadwell. sat down and switched the t. like really.” trailing off and staring into the camera with a crazed dazed look in his eyes. He picked up. who said: “As you can see here the crowd is getting pretty riled up.. Chihuaua. He said: “It is the end. There are a number of people who seem to have come to the scene for the sole purpose of inciting a riot.v. “Ay.” Then she flipped over to The Panic Channel where they were interviewing a man with long hair and a long beard who was dressed in rags and had a big wooden cross over his shoulder." "What actually.

" "Who said it?" "I dunno. The top three things I hear are Aliens. Nobody knows how though.'" "What the fuck is that?" "I dunno.” she said. "Fuckin asshole husband Bobby left to get some limes and never came back. Is he there at the library?" .180 "Yeah." "It's totally destroyed. But I mean everybody's already pretty riled up. nobody needs anymore riling. There's a scientist here from LANL who keeps shouting shit. He's like 'Frankenstein!' and ‘Jurassic Park!’ all over the place." "Well there's some other guys around here talking about it's some genetically engineered beast that escaped from Los Alamos." she said. Los Alamos and Terrorists. Some idiot. I need some limes to drink with my beer and tequila. “You got any limes?" "What?" "Limes." "FoxNews said it was a 'gooey bomb." "Wow.

" she said." "Half-drunk. I like lemons.." she remonstrated." he said.” she said." "Fuckin A right." "No! Come over!" she yelled. shaking her head." "Well where is he? I want my limes.. She lit a new cigarette with the embered stump of her old one and put the stump in a near empty can of beer where it expired with a muted tinny hiss..." Chris laughed. I think there's somethin new goin on down the street. "Bring limes!" But he was gone. "But I need more limes for when I get even fuckin drunker.” . Another Absence where a Man should have been. demanded.181 "I haven't seen him. Hey – you sound pretty drunk." "Fucked if I know. then let out an heroic belch that settled into a sickly green patina on the phone. . “Fuck.." and began laughing bitterly at herself. “Fuckin A..A. "But for now I'm gonna go. Then asked her: "Why don't you come on down here? It's kinda fun." "No way." she slurred..in. "Maybe I'll come back later. . Chris laughed. "Man alive you really are drunk. "I'm too fuckin drunk to drive and too fuckin fat to walk..

Ojaque?” one of the men said. realizing that she shouldn't have demonstrated any specific knowledge of the crime only after she'd said it. the anglo.” "What – the guy who got crucified?" she asked them.182 And then a knocking at the door. “Fuckin A. but when he did that he knocked weakly. We’re investigating a homicide. She opened it. And the other said: “We’re looking for Robert Ojaque. . Cheap suits. said: “I’m sergeant Logan and this is detective Paz. One of them. it was two guys in suits. “Mrs. guiltily) but she thought that it might be one of his deadbeat “friends” in which case she could send him or them out to retrieve the sonofabitch.” she sighed.” And the first one said: “Don’t worry: he’s not in trouble.” Whereupon both men began to giggle against their will but managed to stifle themselves rather quickly. Cops. hard and authoritative.” she said. She got up and lumbered fatly over to the door. “He was supposed to be home with my muthafuckin limes like an hour ago. It wasn’t Bobby’s friends. shaking her head. Next time I see him I’m gonna shove his head so far up his ass it comes out the top of his neck again. but drunk and nasty as she was feeling she really didn't give much of a damn.” “Yes he is. It definitely wasn’t Bobby (sometimes he would knock before coming into his own house – when he was trying to avoid her he’d knock on the door and then go hide behind a car or a tree and wait and see if she came to the door.

" she slurred. "I knew it. "We were just at that store down on the corner of your street: they had tons of limes. grinning maliciously. "Uh huh. He just got all shitfaced and started babbling and bawling and I had to subdue him and put him to bed by force. mental telepathy maybe.” “Can you be more specific?” Paz asked." she said. midnight. maybe. You have no idea what it’s like to live with someone like that." "When did he come home last night?" "Nine or eleven. "He's probably at El Borracho's." And Paz asked: "Did you say that your husband went out to get some limes?" "Yeah. My own damn self. her already thin and hooded eyes narrowing even further into a squint of infinite scorn. He had a little notepad and a pen and was jotting things. they gave the impression of conducting a silent conversation. After they finished they turned back to face her and Logan said: "So you know why we're here.183 The two cops turned and looked at each other." she said." "The bar?" Paz asked. . It's pathetic. "He's an alcoholic." Logan said. “Can you be more specific about what you want me to be more specific about?” she asked.

then continued: “Bobby said that Stevie cried and screamed and lost his shit..” . and eventually he started screaming like a woman and started telling me all these crazy things all jumbled and incoherent. I guess it was after ten because I wasn’t watching t. “or anything he might have said about two men named Geraldo or Stevie Salazar? Actually. we’ll go check that out.” she said. Paz asked her: “Mrs. laughing in his face.” and she took a drag of her cigarette and added: “or was I?” Finally. “Well. but then he was like ‘no no no. and he said Stevie cried and screamed and then he was like bawling and sobbing his own damn self. He was drunk – he’s a drunk.v. She chuckled a little. you know – and he just fell apart and babbled like a baby. it doesn’t have to be just from last night.” she shrugged.have you been drinking?” “You really are a detective.” “Stevie’s a fuckin dickhead.184 “The time. then put her hand over her mouth and belched and it sounded like a pig fucking a bullfrog.” Logan said. But we might come back later.” Logan rolled his eyes. He’s probably at Borracho’s getting borracho by now. I don’t pay attention to what time it is. Ojaque -.’ which meant yes. “And are you drunk?” Logan asked her. “I don’t know.. “Can you tell us anything about what Robert said when he came home last night?” Paz asked her.” she said. Logan winced. And I was like ‘worse than you are now?’ because he was kind of losing his own shit. “Gettin there.

eat him. I’ll kill him. a constant monotony. which she then dropped into the beer can. then I’ll kill the shit. he began speaking to the Grim Reaper under his breath." Sneaky Pete muttered sourly. then sat back on the couch. 37.” she said.” Paz said as they turned to go. "Awwwwwwwww horseshit. “If you find him bring him back to me so I can beat the living shit out of him. She watched them through the window as they got in their car and drove away. she's a hundred fuckin years old. Time kept happening. on account of he'd just stepped in some horseshit. on vacation? and so on muttering endlessly under his breath which to anyone but him was a hum like old refrigerators make.” she said. and then I’ll make him eat the dead shit.185 “Okay. . then. I’ll beat the living shit out. C'mon. he said: she's old and slow and wants to go: she's an easy score. It died. “Fat fuckin chance. took out a cigarette and lit it with the latest embering stump. Two flies chased each other round his ankle in zany unknowable orbits like electrons.” “Maybe try and sober up before we come back. Granny laughed at him. she’s past due – what are you. slamming the door. shit him out and make the shit eat itself until there‘s nothing left.

” He could tell that she was loving it. The enormous parking lot was rarely more than sparsely populated with cars. leaving behind a wet shadow of shit on his skin. but even from a great distance it was a really big butterfly. so it had flown east – up . “It’s good luck. sometimes concealing cars or vans that people lived in. a big bunch of tired and dusty old stores clustered in the middle of a huge and desolate parking lot where once the City of Faith’s professional football team. mostly prairie dogs and jackrabbits but with little tiny bits of birds or turtles and things of unknowable origin all comprising the gothicomic scattershackle mosaic that visitors of the Kiva Borderlands Shopping Center trod upon from store to store. So they’d stopped out at the Kiva Borderlands Shopping Center.” Granny said. the Dust Devils. like a mile or three outside the city. and but for the horseshit incident it might have been a nice quick diversion before the long drive out through the desolate desert that Pete had just come into town from right around dawn. had had their stadium. They were on the outskirts of the city. they hadn’t managed to just haul ass out of the city like Pete had wanted to: Granny had (made him) asked him to stop at a liquor store before he took her out into the vast holocaustic nowhere lands that they call Wastralia where there are no stores liquor or otherwise. where everything fell away into Wastralia. all squared round and interconnected by a rickety bricabrac boardwalk that was a haphazard network of incongruous boards rocks sticks and even little bits of varmint bones. A piece fell off his foot as he shook it. But these things mattered little to Sneaky Pete and Granny on account of they’d managed to get a parking spot really close to Kiva Liquors. He grumbled invective down at the gravel as he pulled his ripped sandal out of the hot fresh horseshit with a sucking slurp.186 “Don’t worry. into the sky and off the other way from the one he was coming from – west. sagebrush and gnarly anguished cottonwoods. but now where their stadium had been the stores sat hunched in the brutalbright sunshine. Which was when he'd seen a giant butterfly fly up out and over the town in the distance (this was when he was getting close to the city limits from way out in Wastralia. like Mothra) flying up and out from the adobe and the trees. its outer reaches were overgrown with weeds. or little campsites where human varmints had nested and rested and moved on.

and that's no goddam fun at all. she’d just laugh or say pshaw. about three feet away. trying to be patient but not doing well. but she’d just say that’s exactly what your daddy would have said and dismiss him with a wave of the hand. it was true because it was. explaining that she never got to go anywhere anymore excepting the doctor's office. even though he knew it to be a sign of The End of Days." Granny said as he stood there waiting for her to come up the three steps to the boardwalk of wood and bone on the outside the entrance of Kiva Liquors. just mumbled and grumbled as he waited at the top of the steps kicking a little post with a sunbleached turtle shell on top of it.187 over the Sangre De Cristos. tapping his foot. He'd told her to just stay in the truck while he went in but she'd insisted on getting out and coming in with him. but he didn’t say anything about it. but Sneaky Pete was getting ants in his pants on account of the terrorist attack and goddam Granny didn't even seem to care. and that’s why they both would’ve said it. The sun had come up right from behind the highest mountain. Pete missed his old dad but he thought he might keep him alive a little by remembering him by saying the things that he'd once said. until he’d died just before Christmas the year before. "Of course they got Jim Beam. but if it had been raining and he’d said it’s raining that would’ve been what his father would have said too but that didn’t make it true or not true. "I hope they have Jim Beam. which he didn't know the name of but which he'd always thought of as Devil's Hound's Tooth Mountain What Bit the Sky and Made it Bleed the Dawn's Early Light which didn't make sense to him but that was what his father Sneaky Senior had always called it. It looked like it was grinning at him and he . who was tied to a post right near the one where he was kicking the shit off of his sandal." he said. trying to knock the last little bits of shit off of his sandal and glaring angrily at the horse that had shit that shit. "I hope y'all get the horse AIDS. just like she wouldn't've cared if he’d’ve told her about the giant butterfly what blew the gloom away and how the sun rose up red and had looked like a little drop of blood sitting there on the sharp tip of the Devil’s Hound’s Tooth. or by rolling her eyes. and with the wind from its wings it blew the rain and the mist and the gloom off of the world and left the sky flawless for the dawn." he said to the creature. and doing things the way that he would have done them.

. she just had to ease into the groove.. But that was okay. the Great Depression.188 said: "Bein made into glue's even too good for you. and he didn't like that one bit. World War Two. She’d once been quite good at the two-cane method but she was out of practice. hell and earth.. She did. The past is always still happening and the future's always germinating it's all just happening and it's always been happening and it won't end when all the dead are buried in the dust and dirt of the world because the old dead become the new dust and dirt and the old dust and dirt become the new world and the dust and the dirt never die because death is their birth. change will not stop until time is dead but death only happens in time and the sun will rise and sun fall and clouds roll over and away and even if we changed how it all changed we would not change the fact that it changed and everyone should know this but it cannot be taught only learned but learning takes patience and some people like Peter got no goddam patience at all. but even just easing was very difficult at this age. but she hurried because he was impatient and could get pretty ornery. past. with a smoldering impotent fury. so he shouted at it: "Go fuck yer mother ya dumb animal!" He should've known that Granny was going to yell at him. and seasons and things always change (or nothing ever changes except change stays the same) and the cycles of the planets and the stars through the darkness of heaven are the very nature of time itself.. future. It just stood there mocking his dignity. but she wasn’t worried about the world ending because the world would never end only change that’s why we have to make up things like heaven.. she wasn’t really as worried about the alleged “terrorist attack” as her nephew. still getting the hang of walking with two canes (feeling like a crippled spider with half it's legs missing) but she kept at it and was determined not to give up. She said: "Peter! Don't ever say that around me or anyone else!" as she hurried madly at a snail's pace to catch up with him." quietly. and saw no need to hurry. Having lived through World War One. so she hurried. smirking at him. The Cuban Missle Crisis And Every Goddam Otherthing Else. now.

Granny." he said impatiently. And only one good eye. gotten so old that she’d become .) Granny just wandered down the aisle looking around. was not a lot. holding the door in such a way that you could see the hole in the armpit of his shirt where his body had eaten through. She stopped at the stairs and she turned to the horse and said: "You'll have to excuse my great nephew. just hobble on up here now. eyes all aglitter with wonder. and she resumed her movement. (He only had seven and a half fingers.” she said. and the horse winked back and kind of nodded its head and whinnied an I hear you. c’mon now. starting then stopping again. there were more different kinds of liquor than he’d ever seen in his life.189 “-. boxes stacked upon boxes going up and up. She’d outgrown the fear of death that people in their fifties sixties seventies eighties and nineties are often troubled by. which he could’ve counted on two hands if he’d had ten fingers. which. spiderhobbling up over the horseshit. it was still mostly empty space.” “I’m comin I’m comin." "Oh for cryin out loud Granny before the next leap year. searching for her method as she moved. on up the three steps onto the crazy bricabrac boardwalk and on through the doorway past her not so great great nephew who stood there mumbling and grumbling as she went in.C'mon now Granny. bottles and shelves. The store was big inside with high ceilings. actually he's not really that great heh-heh but he is kind of backward and doesn't know any better. and Pete thought it might take them a while to find the Jim Beam. like a kid at a carnival. Pete hadn’t thought that it looked that big from the outside but now on the inside it was like a big warehouse. Fortunately though a little man came humming out of the distance and on down the aisle in an electric cart. And nine toes. turning to the horse and saying: “See what I mean?” with a wink and a chuckle. and despite all the rows and columns of boxes. since he’d never really been anywhere but Wastralia and the penitentiary excepting the occasional trips he’d made to the City of Faith. admittedly. It bothered Pete that Granny didn’t care about the terrorists.

190 very young again. he wore a t-shirt with a picture of Wilt Chamberlain on it and “15. “You don’t point out someone’s abnormality when they’re right there in front of you!” “Thank you.” the little man said calmly. coughing a little. “Quiet down and be polite!” Pete shouted at her. aged round in a circle.” the man said curtly.” Pete said.” . She was very excited by the little man in the cart. who by this time had begun lagging behind.” laughing jovially. Sneaky Pete said: “Granny! Mind yourself now.uh. “No need to make a fuss on my account. did in fact teeter on the pink brink of her soft ancient gums.” He was between three and four feet tall with flat black hair and pale skin and his head was almost cylindrical. He was standing right there in front of them. It feels good to be taller than someone for the first time in thirty years.000” in big glittery silver numbers but he spoke as if he was wearing a suit. There were a few moments of awkward silence. blushing and looking down at his feet. “Lookit the wee one!” she cried happily. I’m real sorry. It reminded him of how a man might drink himself sober if he just stayed up and drank for long enough. I’ve been shrinking since I turned seventy and I’m usually the smallest one in a room. “Oh -. who could still drink most grown men under the table (as long as she’s had a good nap beforehand) and who no longer feared illness disaster or death or anything else but sobriety. and the wee one laughed with her. “Look at him!” she called back over her shoulder to Pete. smiling such a smile that her dentures almost fell out of her mouth. as he’d done plenty of times before. but did not jump (as she often claimed that they did). occasionally with old Granny herself. Finally Granny said: “You know. “It’s meaningless really.

” the man said.” He gestured with his hand to some seats in the back that faced backward and were indeed quite comfy-looking. so that they seemed to be traveling inward toward the center of a squared spiral. cup-holders in the armrests and good firm back support. Then after thinking about it a little she said: “No. disappearing because he was shorter than it was. “Oh stop. both feeling kind of disoriented as the wee one reappeared. “Here we are.” “I’m gonna need to see some I. Sneaky Pete and Granny got out of their seats on the back of the cart and stood at the counter. apparently having .) and off they went. waving her cane at him. the path came to a dead end at a concrete wall. then sat down in the other seat. Pete helped Granny into her seat. (there were two. “Jim Beam.” he said and walked around behind the counter.” Granny said. but then the little man pointed a remote control at the wall and a section of the floor dropped down. it’s got comfortable seats.191 “It’s okay. first. “Why don’t you two just have a seat in the back of the cart.” Granny said.” the man deadpanned. “What can I help you folks find?” “I need Kentucky Bourbon. better just make that some Jim Beam. p’shaw.D. and that the straightaway before the next turn was always shorter than the one before it. maybe a box of Bookers. After a while Pete noticed that every time they turned it was the same way. The little man got out of the cart. a big bottle. rows and corners. into and through a dark underground passage. slanting in a ramp that they rolled slowly down. nicely upholstered and with plenty of room.” at which the man raised his eyebrows and grinned knowingly. After passing through the darkness they came up another ramp back into the light and slowed to a stop right by the entrance where there was a counter with a cash register on it. a right angle to the left. puzzled and dumbly expectant. And just as they seemed to have arrived at the center. whirring down the long aisle and around the columns.

but very low to the ground. Pete helped her up into the cab. He told them the price and Granny took some crumpled bills out of her pocket and gave them to the man. She hadn’t had this much fun in decades. one of the big glass ones with the handle on it. but in a backwards kind of way. on account of when you see the Penn from the outside it looks really big but after you’ve been in there a little while you realize that it’s actually very small. she winked back and wished him likewise. riding the canes through the air for a split second almost like one on crutches. how the big city’s always tryin to trick you. It actually kind of reminded him of the penn. When they walked out of the store the horse was gone (and strangely they’d not seen the rider anywhere in the store) but it had left a reminder at the bottom of the steps that Peter managed to avoid but which Granny accidentally put one of her canes into. She landed safely and then spider-hobbled nimbly back to the truck. Quite athletic for a centenarian. He hoisted up a one and three-quarter liters bottle of Jim Beam. gave her the whiskey to hold on her lap and went around the other side. They headed west with the city shrinking behind them and the road unfurling before them disappearing in the deep distances out in the nowhere at the rim of the world. But maybe not. They pulled out. “Weeee!” she cried like a little girl. Looking at the Kiva Liquors building he wondered how it could be that a place like that could seem so unimpressive on the outside but then be really big on the inside. Maybe it was just some more of that big city bullshit. “lucky me!” and then she rather nimbly shifted her canes and executed a little hop maneuver. he bid them good day and winked at Granny. She really was getting back into the groove of her two-cane method. Strange how things can look different from the inside and the outside depending.192 stepped up onto a box or perhaps a stepladder behind the counter. Sneaky Pete took the bag and the change and receipt from the man. and he wondered what crazy things the world had in store. “Hot damn!” she hollered. and it kept bugging him but he tried not to think but he couldn't stop thinking: if this really was . It looked very big there next to the little man and Granny smiled. got in and started the truck. He put the liquor in a bag and made change. and placed it on the counter.

But now this interloper had come grinning in to complicate things. (but in that brief eternity of bliss he did taste her. and he wanted her: to have and to hold. but he'd only had a brief taste – as they’d first kissed – before there appeared out of the woods an interloper. there was a sweet faint hint of apricot in the dark moistness of her mouth. very vernal. to possess. he'd turned and looked: he saw someone.193 the end of days. She probably wanted to do different things than he did but that was okay. because she wanted him. couldn't even know it. and a tank-top. a tall red haired grinning woman with long pale legs that half-gleamed in the sunlight.. just a drop perhaps.. He kept thinking about what it would be like if time stopped and how if it did happen you wouldn't be able to know what it's like because without time there can be no experience or thought or awareness and the thing about that – as Peter saw it anyway – is that time could've stopped a billion times since breakfast and you wouldn't. 38.) He knew that she wanted him too. too: to have and to hold. She really did taste good. dressed in shorts with spandex stretching down her thighs to her knees. Without warning she’d pulled back and looked over his shoulder and smiled. because she had kissed him first. to devour. what came next? The most impossible unimaginable thing to him was that everything would just stop. breasts bouncing. almost like white wax. but enough. running towards them. and Jess cried out: "Oh my Gaaaaaaaaahhhhhhhhd!" stretching out the “God”to an ungodly length and at a pitch so shrill as to drive dogs mad. and in that moment he came to feel as though he truly knew her. which without his vodka buffer the angel Gabriel might have found . to do things to. and so it would be possible to get her alone somewhere secluded and do things to her.

194
excruciating if not violence-inducing.

The redhaired woman shrilly echoed her sentiment as Jess got up and ran to her and they hugged each other. He wondered if the redhaired one tasted like strawberries or chilipeppers or cinnamon or blood or what, sat there fantasizing about what he would do to them if he could get them alone. They stopped hugging and stood smiling at each other, swaying slightly in the breeze as if drunk, beaming like lovestruck idiots for a moment or two until Jess said something to her that he didn’t hear and they came walking over to the blanket where he sat.

“Gabe, this is Jennica; Jennica, this is Gabe,” Jess said. He smiled and nodded; Jennica was already smiling; she nodded too and said: “Nice to meet you Gabe.”

Jess said to Jennica: “Me and Gabe just met,” and then said to Gabe: “And me and Jennica were in the same yoga class for a while. Now Jennica’s an instructor."

“But I’m always also still a student,” Jennica said.

“Yes,” said Jess. “Of life,” nodding vacuously.

“Right,” Jennica said, grinning, nodding. “And aren’t we all.”

Gabriel had never thought of himself that way: he was more of a student of death; but he didn’t say anything, just gazed off into the distance distractedly. He saw two crows fighting over a dark lump in the grass, some anonymous dead thing; beyond that a dog squatting to shit.

“And Gabe here’s my guardian angel,” Jess said, scooting over to be near him, leaning against him warmly, affectionately, pressing herself against him. He grew aroused; he could feel his blood beating in his ears.

195
“Oh really?” Jennica replied, raising an eyebrow, cocking her head and giving him an appraising look. “Hmmmm.....”

“Yeah,” Jess said. “And his name’s Gabriel.

And, seeming to have only just made the connection, Jennica piped happily: "That's an angel's name!"

"Right," Jess said; "from the Bible."

"But isn't Gabriel like the angel of death or something? Did you ever see that movie The Prophecy?"

"Wait – what?"

"With Christopher Walken?"

"I don't know. That guy gives me the creeps," she said with a shudder.

Gabriel laughed and the gold in his teeth glittered in the sunlight.

"Oh stop laughing," Jess said, hitting him playfully. "You're always laughing," and she hit him again and left her hand on him, caressing him, over his shoulder and around his shoulder blade (where a wing should've been). Then she turned her head to Jennica and asked her: "What was that other thing you said?"

"What? When?"

"Before that guy; before the movie. Just now."

"What did I say?" Jennica asked her.

196

"That's what I'm asking you.”

As they volleyed back and forth Gabriel watched and listened, turning his head to and fro and to and fro between speakers as if watching a tennis match.

"I'm confused," Jennica laughed nervously.

"Never mind," Jess said. "It doesn't matter."

They lapsed into silence. Gabriel, student of death, was on the edge of the blanket; something in the grass caught his eye: a tiny wink of colorous light. He looked down at where it seemed to have come from and spied drop of water nestled in a spiderweb spun between blades of grass, a glistening little seed briefly unweaving the daylight into red orange yellow green blue indigo and violet, trembling there like some newborn thing as yet unused to the world and still perhaps homesick for the one whence it had been delivered. He flicked it with a finger and destroyed it with a tiny splish, smiling darkly to himself. The crows cried “Ra!” and “All!” back and forth.

And there appeared in the sky then a huge flock passing over from the far side of the park, switching back and descending, blueblack birds in wedge shapes descending, dark arrowheads from the sunbright sky, down and down and landing on empty picnic tables and a recently vacated jungle gym (the children running, screaming with terror and delight) and some disappearing into the trees. Slowly, the dark yet iridescent (like rainbows at night) birds settled en masse into stillness and silence in the pure vertical sunlight.

“That’s so freaky,” Jess said quietly, as if afraid that they might swarm on and devour her or pick her up and fly her away to some place of no return.

197
“Grackles,” Jennica said. “They travel in great big groups.”

“Whoa,” Jess said.

They sat there quietly looking at all the grackles. After a few seconds though Gabriel heard a strange noise and he turned and saw two bike cops come pedaling out of the woods. He felt himself tense up but tried to reason with himself: he knew that the cops were out looking for him, but that these guys weren’t; weren’t actively looking for him anyway, although perhaps they’d been shown his picture (which would have to have been a composite sketch because he never let anyone take his picture) and briefed on his history, contacts, warrants, aliases and possible whereabouts (although any information they might have received would probably be erroneous in some way, because Gabriel had no real history or warrants, and his aliases were too numerous to make a difference) but nobody would expect to find him picnicking in the park with two pretty young girls, and he did feel more hidden after changing his name...

But he wondered about Stevie Salazar. He’d probably gone to the police, or said something to someone, and even if he hadn't it was better, smarter, to assume that he had; he wondered if Stevie had told anyone about his rattler tats. He wondered if he'd told anyone of all the things he'd done to him and made him do.

Fortunately for him the cops didn't come anywhere near: something else caught their attention. The dog and the goat that had been chasing him earlier suddenly appeared out of the woods at a run, the dog out in front and the goat galloping behind it with its horns lowered. It seemed like the dog could outrun the goat but it didn't really want to. After letting the goat almost catch him the dog reared up short and circled back around with surprising agility, got behind the goat and tried to bite it in the ass, but the goat let fly with a hoof, kicking back, but missing the dog as it swerved out of the way, a little too quickly, losing control of itself, and the goat too in his quick stop and kick had thrown himself off balance, and the dog's right shoulder got caught under the goat's left foreleg sending them both tumbling over the ground in a tangled mess as they scrapped and battled madly like cartoon animals growling and bleating and snarling.

198
The bike cops pedaled over, dismounted and secured the area, instructing a picnicking family to gather their things and go picnicking elsewhere, and talking into their walkie-talkies, presumably calling for backup; and then the grackles all took off at once, chaotic at first but slowly coalescing into a more orderly groupshape that finally resembled a great black arrowhead as they disappeared over the trees.

“Whoa!” Jess said.

“Crazy!” Jennica cried.

Gabriel laughed. What a crazy day this had been: almost as crazy as yesterday, and with plenty of time yet to go.

Crazy, but not meaningless; not like most of the things that happened in his life; no, this was different, important somehow. Like it was a sign; it felt like a sign; he didn’t exactly know what it was about it or why he had the (overwhelming) feeling that he had, but the feeling was undeniable; and he thought to himself: Maybe I am a messenger of God. And he laughed. It was absurd. But it felt like, like....

....something was happening, and it seemed so real, and he thought to himself: Maybe God sent different messages to different people, through different people.

Jess leaned into him.

“That’s gotta be a sign,” Jennica said.

“Definitely,” Jess said. She let go of Gabriel and stood up, put her hands on her hips and declared (without irony): “Now we three are inextricably linked.” Not laughing, but seeming like she might. Gabriel couldn’t tell what she meant, if she was joking or not, but he agreed with her anyway: he felt that what she had said was true, but not in the way that she’d intended.

199

He also couldn’t help but feel that Jennica’s saying that what had happened was a sign right after he’d recognized it as such was a further sign, a greater sign, a supersign or even a metasign, name it what you will, and he felt a terrible energy surging through his being like a black electric blood, but he tried not to let it show. He put his sunglasses back on, got up and said: “I’m gonna go get my stuff and bring it on over here.”

“Okay,” Jess said; then, after a brief pause, said: “I was thinking we should get up and go somewhere.”

“Like where?” Jennica asked.

They talked back and forth but he ignored them as he walked away and he could hear the sound of their speech but not the words, like they were just another pair of chirping birds. When he got back to his stuff he drank the rest of the vodka, about six ounces, and it was warm and it stung his nostrils and burned his throat. He left the empty bottle with the remnants of his sandwich in the grass; the sandwich had become hot and soggy. He picked up his jacket and slung it over his shoulder, holding it with a hooked forefinger, and walked back to Jess’s blanket. He could feel the vodka in his guts, soaking into his blood, a fluid fire coursing through the darkness of his insides, permeating him.

When he got back Jess had her blanket rolled up and she held it under her arm.

"Come with us," she said.

"Yes," Jennica said. "Come along guardian angel, we'll show you the coolest place you've ever been."

"Where's that?" he asked, smiling.

"The FCABG," Jess said.

"And maybe we'll stop by my house." "Okay." he said again. too: there were probably a bunch of nice secluded places where he could do things to them there. "It's very beautiful there." Jennica said. that canopied the street. and the small networks of branches resembling river deltas. neural dendrites. faintly luminous pastel green.200 "What's that?" "The Faith County Arboretum and Botanical Gardens. Arthur Had fallen behind. he kept stopping to . “Why are you turning that way?” Arthur called to him. "Sounds good to me." he said. An arrowhead-shaped flock of arrowhead-shaped birds (suggesting in it's recursive self-similarity some transcendental sense of form across orders of magnitude) passed overhead casting a vast shadow as they flew over the city. He’d been loping ahead in a drunken stagger-dance like a satyr and had veered off in an unexpected direction. He looked at Finnegan up ahead. Arthur was admiring the new buds on the elm trees." Jess said. Bloodlust visions blossomed in the dark soil of his soul. And that really did sound good." It really did. "Just real quick. lightning bolts. alveoli." "Sounds good. 39.

" Arthur said distantly like an echo.. Get the inside scoop. walking with one foot in oblivion as he was. There’s probably nobody watching the back. so that made it easier. (. a few petunias. He can’t believe that Finnegan is hurrying through all of this to some other more important thing when we are already there. or the furrowed grooves found in the folds of the cerebral cortex in the human brain.. the pale flowers and their subtle perfumes. so in a placating voice he says: “Oh. snowdrops. however. or the opening and/or already open flowers: crocuses. waiting while Arthur breaks into a trot to catch up. A forsythia bush. its stalks ablaze in raggedy yellow stars.) . he was embarrassed that he could not hide the nervous apprehension that he felt. then from there we can take the path that runs along Shady Brook. and never having been interested in other people's feelings besides. Finnegan seemed more interested in the destination than the journey. lost briefly each time in contemplating the dark feminine force that drove it. Finnegan regards him with suspicion as he approaches because of a look of madness or enlightenment on his face. stopping to contemplate every fresh bright green shoot as of daffodils or irises reaching out of the damp dark dirt and into the light. That path goes right behind the library: I bet we can get access to forbidden areas from there. and was perhaps losing patience with Arthur as he kept stopping to contemplate the pastel hues of the budding trees. Finnegan seemed not to notice.” as they walked down a squiggling little side street that reminded Arthur of the alluvial designs left in the sandy arroyos of the city after the waters have receded. But Finnegan doesn’t really believe in enlightenment.201 marvel at the sights and scents of the vegetable world rising again out of its own death. her name brought an unwanted feeling of seriousness and sobriety upon him. he could feel his face change. I thought I told you. Finnegan continued: “I wanted to stop by Maya’s house on the way.a thought fluttered through his brain and reminded him of something: he reached into his pocket and checked to see if he'd brought the poem he'd written on the wordless letter from the day before and it was there.” "Maya's. if only we could but open our eyes to see! Finnegan stops and stands where he is.

I think my bag’s at yer . as I like to call it. that would probably involve public nudity. “Yeah. "My bag. just relieved that Arthur had lost the crazed look and that he was back to being his usual owly self). so I’m not used to carrying it around and I keep leaving it everywhere. manpurse. "Your bag?" "Yeah. remembering ruefully the time that Finnegan had taken too much speed and acid and cough syrup and thought he had electric bugs crawling all under his skin. then calming down. bail money or possibly all three.were you sleeping? Oh.” he said. I only just got it recently.” And he said “what?” but Finnegan had not been talking to him. bloody knuckles. “Yeah -." Finnegan said. Well.” he said into the phone. But Finnegan didn't seem to notice (Finnegan was. I got this new messenger bag or.” Finnegan said.202 "Yeah. feeling nervous about seeing Maya. in fact. then began scratching his neck with a furious druggy intensity. eyes bloodshot and darting around restlessly paranoiac in a way that had Arthur a little worried: if Finnegan was this fucked up this early in the day then something was bound to happen. he looked over at him and saw that he had his cellphone at his ear. before we came over to your house.” Arthur said. sorry. He’d thought that kind of thing would phase out once they got into their thirties but apparently not. wincing at the unintentional emotion in his voice. but jumping like a spooked cat when Finnegan said “Hey. The other day. something crazy or dangerous or both. following Finnegan as they turned again. his speech slurred and hurried. Maybe in their forties then." Finnegan said. If they made it that far. we were over there and I left my bag there when we left. "What for?" he asked. “Okay. “Oh.

okay then.” “Okay. we’re on our way to the library. then we can -. you can come. Bye.. No. not quite in chords but in coruscating cascades of tones.. It blew up last night or something. jangling. .” Arthur said. So. The world rising out of its sleepy slumbers. “Cool. cool. with bursts and clusters of notes like handfulls of coins being tossed back and forth through light.” They walked without talking for a while..203 house.mmhm uh huh. yeah. well.. cheeping and chirping a pointonallistic paean to the great green world. What? I don’t. yeah. .yeah. we can take that little path that goes along Shady Brook. We’ll be there in a few minutes. See ya.. jingling. oh.. Me and Arthur’ll come by and get it..” Then he turned to Arthur and said: “Maya’s gonna come with. warbling. Finnegan got out ahead again. All the different birds in all the different trees sang in a chorus: trilling... Okay later. Birdsinging ringing everywhere like the tintinnabulation of a million tiny bells. tweeting. . Arthur trembled inside. Yeah. 40. The what? Oh you mean the.. Behind your back yard. Yeah.

but he did not think too much about it. with just the faintest movement of his mouth: Ska Maria Pastora. so it was good enough for him. set them down on the kitchen table. He sat down to his sandwich and his milk as he listened. Father Montoya made himself an eggsalad (the incomparable egg-salad of the widow Miss Weatherby. so before he sat down he pressed the playback button. She’d been busy taking care of her mother-in-law. who usually came by his house a couple of times a month to tidy up. had not been around for months. felt the warm breeze invisible all through the house.. though it seemed early in the spring for those particular flowers. purging it of all the old winterstale. His cheeks glowed with warmth as the blood flowed. whose name and voice Father Montoya had not . the wind and light. So the dust had gathered with time. Marisol. cook a meal and talk. but fortunately the zephyrs of spring had come and swept the dust away. His answering machine was very old and almost as big as a shoebox. figuratively if not literally (much of the dust still clung to the furniture but there was an ambience of freshness). literally and figuratively.. His big old answering machine was blinking. and for the most part he kept things clean. wet dirt. He sat down and sighed and sighing he sang to the new morning. but it still blinked when he had messages and it still played them back when he pressed the playback button. as happens in life. he just had trouble dusting sometimes. he took a deep breath. It was from Stevie Salazar.204 Home for lunch after a nice nap in the sun on the old stone bench. fresh fragrances of budding foliage. because the reaching and bending over were too much stress and strain and gave him pains in his increasingly creaky joints. and that was good. and proceeded to play back the first message. his flesh flushed. who’d slipped and broke her hip on an icy sidewalk in December. but he’d done okay without her: he was by nature a neat and orderly man. in its unhuman mechanical monotone: you have two new messages. The machine said. his longtime neighbor) sandwich and a glass of milk. was glad for it. then went around the house opening all of the windows and letting the zephyrs come blowing in and flowing through the house. a faint hint of hyacinth and lilac.

father. which did not end. and once he remembered who exactly Stevie was he remembered everything about him (remembering was for him like moving through an actual physical space. with Stevie being accepted by the older boys after a period of hazing. chronological age notwithstanding. and the widow Weatherby's egg-salad was his favorite egg-salad. although he did refer to himself in the diminutive ("Hello. and when he'd first entered the library he hadn't known who Stevie Salazar was. awkward teenager who always tried very hard to fit in with the older kids. and that she hoped that things hadn’t . had probably become a man. looking." he said ominously. how badly he'd transgressed and/or been led to transgress by what man woman or serpent. and how much he was suffering now in his heart and in his soul as a result. like walking through a library. He hoped that the second message would be better news. There was a quality of youth in his voice that was sad and aching and somehow broken. abused and humiliated by them (which instead of disillusioning him only made him admire them more). As he listened and (hurt and) thought he began to remember little Stevie Salazar. following them around and admiring the worst in them (as often happens in the folly of youth) and being teased. According to the priest's reckoning he would be in his thirties by now and now he seemed to be in grownup trouble since he was calling up Montoya and asking him to come and see him in jail and hear his confession ("I might even need the last rites. as these kinds of things often did.205 immediately recognized because it had been so long since he'd seen or talked to the boy who. for there had been great torment and sorrow in his voice and it had filled the priest with great sorrow too even to the point where he could not finish his egg-salad sandwich. and it was truly a roubling thing indeed that could ruin his appetite for such a sandwich. by now. this is Stevie Salazar – remember me?") and like many men he might still have been (and been destined unto death to be) a boy. it was: it was his niece Marisol saying that she would be able to come in and do the spring cleaning at his house early next week. that her mother-in-law had recovered rather quickly for her age and was doing quite well. quaveringly). Stevie had been a gawky. but once he found the book entitled Stevie Salazar he could open up to any page at random or browse through it). these acts of abuse were not ritualistic so much as simply cruel (as often happens in the folly of youth) and it made Father Montoya wonder what kind of trouble Stevie was in now. And egg-salad was his favorite kind of sandwich.

But more than the cleaning he looked forward to her smiling eyes and her ebullient disposition. we are born. finished his milk and headed back out into the world. Back to corruption. obsolete. are alive. He was talking to himself now: yes. and feeling like your once well-tended flock is dispersing in inevitable scatteration to the world’s labyrinthine with no thread or shepherd to find their way back. to seeing her and talking to her again. and the weather was very nice. Again. defiled or degraded or devoured by. It’s a hard job. But the people. and doubtless there were things that he hadn’t noticed that she would. not wiser in proper proportion to weaker or older. getting older and weaker and not-wiser enough. It was the flock that he’d worked for these many years. but for God and His children. Back to death and darkness. and Marisol was a good listener. the lambs who without a shepherd might be forever lost in. about a half-mile from his house in the same complex of buildings as the Post Office. to Stevie Salazar in his holding cell. we die. But that is the way of things in this world. From innocence to corruption back to innocence hence. The way of flesh goes from darkness to weakness to power and light. being an old man. in an age where youth is so senselessly worshipped and God is called old. He was glad that they hadn’t and even a little proud of himself for having done so well on his own. It was not a long walk. dead. It was not far. He wrapped the remainder of his sandwich in some plastic wrap and put it in the refrigerator. and words. but of course there was still plenty of dusting to do despite the spring wind doing some of it. I’m talking to myself now. and trying to live decently. dumbness. Usually he just listens. They struggled and suffered and sinned and prayed. tomb. being a priest. the Faith County Courthouse and the public library. oh so many words. Lost lambs wandering the world while wolves watch and wait in the shadows. the Catholics who come to him for help. not the Pope or the Cardinals or the Bishops or the Archdiocese. but sometimes he needs someone else to listen.. walking to the City of Faith police station. but his heart was weary: it can be hard sometimes. Sometimes a priest just needs someone to talk to. corruption unto . we grow up and grow old. it was right next to City Hall. and then back to weakness and back into the darkness. the darkness of the world.206 gotten out of hand in her absence. so he was glad she’d called.. About the way of things in this world again.

this was sad.207 dirt.. a wasted endeavor embarked upon at the behest of a false calling in pursuit of a counterfeit ideal and predicated upon false values and yet.. and his own position in his own turning cycle turning through his autumn... He felt in his bones a warmth like youth and . It made him dizzy. dust to dust. yes. riding on the wind like a butterfly out of the gloomy cocoon of winter. Verily. like Ecclesiastes turn turn. Had it not sung to him “thank you!”? Had not someone sung those words to him on the warm wind.Had he not been given a sign? Had he not been awoken by the trembling earth. and had he not witnessed this day's epiphany dawn? Was it not a vernal revelation? He had been spoken to by someone. Father Francisco Federico Ferdinando Montenegro Montoya. the new light? Yes and yes. and the feeling that he was failing. from some secret somewhere – some distant echoing voice in the dewy dawning light of the new morning. Someone? . thinking about sinking into darkness unto death. mist and night. And so how could he tarry or doubt or debate it.. Yet had he not this very morning been spoken. or something. the world with all its circles cycling. sung to by. his twilight.. spheres within spheres within spheres. the loss of all that he had come to know and love and yes. how could he go on worriedly wondering at the worth of his life’s calling? How could he not know that God is Love and that even in these troubled times (indeed in anytime for of course He precedes and transcends time itself) Grace is possible and that though fallen like all men he has not failed because he has made and still can make a difference in the lives of the people whom he was called forth to shepherd? As he walked he felt the wind and light playing over his skin. or falling. back into the earth. letting him know that all was not in vain. but sorrow is inevitable and it was easy to think that it has all been one long delusion or deception or folly... his dusk. speaking. not like Adam more like Autumn. singing to him.

A warmth like light coursed through him and he was overcome by an almost unbearable exuberance.. and he has places to go: the pasture is vast and the lambs are many and yes they are scattered but he’ll be fast to gather them and remind them that yes they are alive and that their true life is still yet to come and he is running he is smiling and running crying running. laughing. and he knew now that he had the strength to bear the burden of knowing the sins and the sadness of Stevie Salazar. walking briskly now down the sidewalk. and he threw his cane down into the grass where it became a snake. he’s running and running and running. Never in his life had he felt this way.” and he picked up his pace. even in his youth he had never felt so young (but then bodily youth and spiritual youth are different things entirely). Running and flying and all the green world is blowing by in a blur as he flies to meet his fate.. crying. and he was glad. . A music of spheres in the turning wheels of things that even in our waning days we can still dance to.208 a pleasant pain in his face from smiling so broadly. and he was smiling and laughing and crying and now he knew that though his whole life still lay ahead of him. just left it behind. And he was glad. everything melting together in a miraculous mocean flux as he’s flying. As dim and heavy as we sometimes feel it can carry us on the wind if we let it. a wheeling prayer of poetry in mocean flying fast as timeless light and yea verily there are things to do in this life and yet more in the next yea and he ran and said thank you yea verily thanks very much and he is glad and he runs. waiting for him to become it. shed its skin and slithered away into the world and beyond. his legs pumping and his lungs puffing and his heart pounding. so alive. Turning his face upward he sang to the trees and the birds and the sun and the sky: “Thank you. and he felt the wind and the light flowing over his skin the power and the glory flowering within him and he was smiling. And again he said “thank you” and again: “thank you” and again. even in his prime he had never felt so strong. He did not notice. and he did not look back as he began to run.

209 42. "You mustn't. The only thing he came out of school believing about history was that George Washington smoked weed and Thomas Jefferson liked dark meat. . Chris couldn't tell which. not even back in school." Chris said." he pleaded." he said." Making a series of indecipherable hand-gestures. "please don't. he did want Blitzen to explain it a little to him first however so that Maya would be impressed by his knowledge of top secret government X-Files type shit. although he did seem to vaguely recall seeing his grassgreen hair and cool angular Teutonic features with those dark sunglasses on the cover of some magazine or another at some time or another. still gesticulating with an almost painful awkwardness like he was not at home in his own body. Bringing a Nobel Prize winner to her house would be totally impressive. This man was either truly desperate or a very good actor. and also. "Just please try and understand ze import of vaht vee are dealing vith. "you better calm down fore I kick your ass and leave you back at the library. But who can tell with memories? Chris had never trusted anyone's idea of history. because she was sharp with the brainy stuff. only served to further annoy him. and even then he wasn't sure he believed him. "For the last time. and a palpable air of desperation that hung in the air like a stench. He hadn't even known the man was a Nobel Laureate until Blitzen told him so. odd prestidigitational semaphores that meant nothing to Chris. There was a great strain in his voice. whom he believed was born at the Boston Teaparty or some shit and who if she did not know Washington and Jefferson first hand probably knew someone who did. which was the only place Chris could think to go. He figured if he wanted to know the real story about that stuff he could just ask Granny. Hans Blitzen was very agitated." They were on their way to Maya's house. she could probably understand what Blitzen was trying to explain.

Just calm down a minute and stop screeching already. no coffee for you.German." "Perhaps some coffee." “What the fuck is that." Blitzen said distractedly." "What the hell continent are you from then. "we're gonna put some gas in the truck and -." "Brooklyn you dumbkopf." he said." and he pulled into a gas station. "No way man." Chris said. What part of Europe is that – the ass or the armpit?" "It's not Europe. fiddling with his sunglasses.210 "I'm trying." "What? What the hell country do you come from that you have that crazy accent and think that coffee's a good way to relax?" "I'm not – I'm fruh –" "What are you -." "It helps me relax. "Now.do you want anything to drink? You could probably use a drink. Well. "but you're really all over the place dude." “Oh. Yer already all fuckin jacked up. why the hell do you talk like that?” . Swiss – Austrohungarian?" "I'm from Bensonhurst.

” Blitzen said.” Chris said. it just seemed like the rocknroll thing to do: it seemed to Chris that in any given situation involving a guy with green hair and a bunch of heavies in suits and shades straight out of The Matrix on the other that the greenhaired guy’s side is just the side that he would naturally fall on. deep in thought. “Don’t worry about it. He hadn’t known why he let him in the truck.211 “Like vaht?” “Jesus H Chris. He brought his bounty up to the counter and the pretty little chica rang him up. Chris got out of the truck. or even some kind of prankster from Mtv or Howard Stern or something. At the library there’d been a mob rocking a police car back and forth with the cops inside scared shitless with faces like deer caught in headlights and he’d rescued this crazy greenhair guy from a bunch of heavies in suits and dark glasses who looked like secret service or the Men in Black or something. a pint of Jack Daniels. puzzled. He’d thought that Blitzen was a political activist or a crypto-anarchist or something. But . “I’m gonna gas up and get us some supplies and when I get back in the truck yer gonna tell me from the beginning everything over again okay?” “Okay. went into the gas station and got a four-pack of Icehouse tallboys. Chris still couldn’t tell though if he was for real or another crackpot as the New Mexico desert spawns effortlessly in great numbers. And myself too.” “Vaht?” Blitzen asked. but he said he was a foreign scientist from the faraway land of Bensonhurst working on some crazy X-Files shit at Los Alamos. a pack of Camel Filters and a couple of hot dogs with chili and cheese. then seemed to sink into himself. Fuckin smoke a beer and drink a bowl and fuck the chill out. We need to get you a goddam cocktail.

) He couldn’t get any information regarding its reactive or ballistic properties or anything regarding how it was supposed to work though and wasn’t sure he believed that it actually existed. Some talked about roundin up a posse and storming the mosque on Water Street or the Sikh temple (because Sikh’s wore turbans) out on the edge of town by the Borderlands Shopping Center. .” Blitzen said.” “Okay. there’s whiskey and beer in there. and sevengoo (an organic. easy to synthesize derivative of Ice-Nine. It is compact and concealable in a backpack or dufflebag and metal detectors don’t detect it.212 all of the stuff he was saying seemed less and less crazy the more he went back over the crazy day (or day and a half)’s events and playing them back in his mind. according to some guy with long hair and glasses that everyone kept deferring to. and Chris could not believe that anyone who believed any of that jiveass horsecrap would be found anywhere near ground zero right after the bomb went off. or malt liquor I mean. One freaky guy with blue tattoos and desert camo gear had said he had an arsenal out at his ranch in Wastralia and how he was ready for the Big One and had been waiting for this his whole life. he’d asked around about it and got some details: from what he could gather. He couldn’t get a straight answer: everyone he asked had different theories involving any number of alleged “natural laws.. radioactive cancer jellies. the Borg etc. Just have a drink and settle down and tell me everything from the beginning. cloaking devices. imopolex-g. He had one chilicheesedog left when he got back into the truck. After he'd heard about the Gooey Bomb from Celia. It's one drawback is that it is very heavy owing to its triune core structure of mercury. have a drink.” conjectural arcane technologies and crazy words like cyborganic technoplasm and/or dilithium crystals. a "Gooey Bomb" was the first ever large-scale biological weapon that could be made in the average proletarian's kitchen for under two hundred dollars and a day's labor.. People at the library had been talking some freaky deaky farout fuckin shit. He put the paper bag with the liquor in it on Blitzen's lap and said: “Dude. trilithium crystals.

It’s an epistemological crapshoot. It cut under Chris’s skin like slivers of glass. zee universe vas vunce an eency veency teeny tiny urgeometrick one-d point.” Chris said."are they gonna follow us?" "I don't sink so. saying: “I mean about the Morpheus jism. pulling out into the street and turning on his sound system.” he said. starting the truck and taking the second and last bite of his dog and chewing ruminatively with protuberant chipmunk cheeks. "Zey're more concerned vith ze library I sink. a serrated staccato lunatic laughter. and zere vere no physical laws. Sings like causality and time did not exist as vee know zem. exasperated. Have a drink first and then you can tell me why I should get involved in whatever you're involved in and why I saved you from the Matrix guys and like --" he stopped then and blinked. undifferentiated. not again. Suffice to say. you mean. zee proverbial infinitely hot and dense dot. at least not in ze vay zat vee understand zem. sings vere. I’m sorry. I have a very German sense of humor." Blitzen said. "So I won't get in trouble for helping you and get locked away and raped or shanked or . teetering vertiginously on the verge of violence as he closed the door of the truck and put the key in the ignition. “Hilarious.” The scientist laughed.” Chris sighed." "Good. Sighing. “of course.213 Then began: “Nobody really knows vaht happened in zee beginning." Chris said. fused together in an eency veency teeny ti --” “Jesus H Chris. as zey say. He swallowed the rest of his chilicheesedog and said: "Okay. He eyed Blitzen warily and shivered. and in a second Pete Doherty and the Libertines came on. I vas only joking. kind of did a double-take as if he'd just realized something -.” He shook his head and the bright sunlight gleamed on and off the lenses of his dark sunglasses across and back as he moved. “Ze Morphoplasm.

” Blitzen said.” Chris said. "So just tell me about the friggin gooey bomb and the monstercosm again." Chris said. unscrewing the cap on the pint bottle of Jack Daniels. Very good. “Yeah. then brought it up to his mouth and quickly sucked the foam off of the top with a slurping noise. He wondered if Maya would think he was a hero if it turned out that this guy really .” Blitzen said.” “So you’re sure I won’t get in trouble?” “I didn’t say zat. Gimme one o them tallboys willya?” “Oh. “Let that Jack work its magic on your jagged edge. “I’m gonna stop now before I get all tangled up in all your horseshit again. but less crazily. If you freak out like before I will kick your ass back to whatever planet you're from. sure.214 anything?” “I don’t sink so." "Okay.” And he opened his Icehouse with one hand while he held the can in place with his thighs and steered with the other." "Right. "And try and stay calm. handing it to Chris. He took another sip of the Jack Daniels. “Zis is good. which was good.” he said. reaching into the bag and pulling out one of the big cold-sweaty cans. laughing again now. "Okay." "Bensonhurst." Chris said." Blitzen said. “Alright. Mellow your bones and shit.” Chris said.

"Okay. "Iss completely ridiculous." "Ahhhhh yeah. right. then took a couple of deep breaths and. anyvay. yes?" Chris did not respond: he did not know if the question had been rhetorical." Chris said. Blitzen screwed the cap back on the Jack Daniels. Veddy cold. because if Blitzen really did know what the hell was going on. I'm not zure who came up vith ze whole gooeybomb idea but it zure zounds zilly." Blitzen said." “—you know I will—" "—okay. "Alright zen. began: "First of all: I vill go as zlow as possible now and you vill stop me if I get distracted or bogged down in technicalities or uzzavize ramble as I zometimes do. Chris didn't want to bring him to Maya only to have her debunk Blitzen and roll her eyes at Chris the idiot again. So he just drove around the curves of the little capillary streets for a while. but if he was bullshitting. Vell. He said: "Ziss iss veddy good. first of all. and took a sip of his Icehouse. finally. zere is no gooey bomb. "Okay.215 was important and knew what was going on. put it back in the bag and got himself a tallboy. yes. ze whole sing's a cover-up. They were already almost at Maya's house but Chris wanted to get all of Blitzen's story down first and also figure out whether or not he was bullshitting. It was very cold." Blitzen said. Chris wanted Maya to think that he did too." Blitzen said." he said. nodding pimpishly. he popped the top and slurped the foam and took a good long draw from it. "No?" .

"And even zillier is zee idea that anyvahn vould believe zem (unless maybe zey vant to).. or did yes mean no and no mean yes or what? "Buh... but who neverzeless passed on ze information and vouched for its veracity zimply in zee act of passing it on all ze vay down to ze people of America from. up the chain of command – could it go back all ze vay to ze prezident? Did everyvone just pass ze buck so zat it vent all ze vay up to der president. who may or may not have believed zeir superiors. and zerefore ze one sing zat he has done zat vould be considered emblematic of his--" "Hold it --" Chris said.. He seemed to mean the same thing both times. this. ..foreigner was making fun of the president. I can't believe zat ze investigators would believe vahtever zuperiors told zem it had to be a gooey bomb. and I can't believe zat ze press vould believe ze investigators ven ze investigators told zem zat terrorists had detonated a gooey bomb." he said. "Right... exactly. which is not really appropriate in a post Nine-eleven world. on orders from zeir superiors. he did not know if Blitzen was actually asking him or not. and I can't believe zat ze American people vould believe ze media who believed ze investigators.216 And again. when he asked yes and when he asked no. . whom. who may or may not have believed zeir superiors. partly because he was lost in the labyrinth of Blitzen's logic and partly because he dimly suspected that this.." Blitzen said. although he wasn't really sure if Blitzen actually was a foreigner or making fun of the president. So Chris didn't know whether he should say yes or no to indicate agreement or disagreement. who probably told zem zat it vas a gooey bomb on orders from zeir superiors and had to act like zey believed it (or did actually manage to believe it by vanting to badly enough). zis being ze vahn independent decision zat he has ever made during his time in office. who came up vith ze gooey bomb idea on his own.

like terrorist cells." Blitzen said." "Right." "So it's compartmentalized." Blitzen said.. ze morphoplasm is a project zat I and a team of uzzer scientists from around ze vorld -. "Because zey don't vant anyvone knowing about ze Morphoplasm.I do not even really know who. because ze project is divided into sub-projects and each sub-project is verked upon by a small team of specialists none of whom are avare of vaht ze uzzer is doing. dude." "Oh. vith zis information being inversely proportionate to zee magnitude of ignorance an --" . you understand. ziss ridiculous gooey bomb nonsense." Chris said. Vell zen." "Right. it did. Zo however it happened. "Right. "Right." Chris said. Vell. “Each group vas given only zee most specific information relevant to its particular task vith as little extraneous information as possible.217 So he simply said: "You're running off." "But it's just a cover-up." "And by invoking ze dread t-verd zey can convince ze people to get zeir hearts back into ze var vith Iraq." Chris said warily. okay zen. ze Patriot Act and aggressive foreign and domestic policies in general. and zat's zeir story and zeir sticking to it as zey say. come back." Blitzen said.." "Don't you run off that way now. "The pornogasm. I'm lost. "Stick to the monkeyspasm." "Right.

puffing his cheeks out. At first anyway. warped convex.. like sunlight. . It was like being out in the most remote reaches of the sunravaged Wastralia desert past the Prophet Margin out in the thermonuclear silence. into the realms of pessimism. all agawk like a yokel at a sideshow.blind. he’d seen as much as he could bear.. and took a good slug off of the Jack Daniels. Forget the technical details.. He took a drink and handed the bottle back to the Nobel Laureate and tried to focus . He looked away and started the truck. but even so." Chris said. But they weren't." "Here you go..218 "I get it. "And gimme summa that Jack Daniels. He took some long loud breaths. then pulling the truck to a stop in the bulb of a cul de sac. like everyone has their special part and they don't know how it relates to the end product. or. finishing his tallboy and tossing it out into the back of the truck through the little sliding window behind their seats. and he’d looked not straight into them but askew. Just explain the library." Blitzen said. doing a four-point turn and heading out of the little alveolus cul de sac and driving around again. tripled. “So. an intense presence of absence. Blitzen turned to face him now and instead of that awesome brightness he saw himself twinned. to cool the wet fire. passing him the bottle. "Thanks.” Blitzen took off his glasses began to clean them and as he did Chris caught a glimpse of the mad doktor's eyes and gasped: his eyes seemed.. a compressed millennium. they just looked it because the irises had no color in them. When Blitzen put the sunglasses back on Chris felt as though he'd just awakened from a dream." Chris said. in the dark lenses of the doktor's sunglasses. taking the pint bottle down to less than half full.. and though he only got a brief glimpse it seemed to last a long time. they contained every color compressed into a brilliant invisibility so that they resembled the sunbright sky: not by being blue but by being very full and very empty at the same time.

“Zo. It leaves zlime everywhere. or a virus. trying to think of the right word. now you know zat biology iss a very messy science -.. abide by it. I cannot abide by biology. “Jeez. All science isn’t ze same you know.” “Okay.” . “But you're a scientist.” Chris said.” Chris said. viscid.” Blitzen said.. I don't know. Too. or a disseaze.vyzics iss more. "It's a biological veapon. and finally he said: “abide. and Chris saw in his mind's eye a vision of those crazy blazing eyes like searchlights rolling up and all the way over so that they looked backward into Blitzen's skull scanning the mysterious labyrinthine library furrows of his brain for the right word.” Blitzen said." He paused and took a sip of malt liquor..." he said. belched and continued: "It's more like an animal. or a poisson. Because it iss not a germ.. hammering a fist into the dashboard. then. “Sorry.219 on maintaining while Blitzen continued. but it iss radically different from anysing else zat might alzo go under zat name.” He almost seemed hurt as he said it." and then he paused. scoffing bitterly.” “Right.” “No. “go on.. no." Chris protested.. "A physicist!" Blitzen thundered. It iss not zat kind of biological varfare. I hate biology... you see. or a fungus perhaps. Biology is a mess.I mean ziss literally.. it’s okay.. I cannot. rarefied – but zee morphoplasm iss a zlippery biological veapon -.. “Zey’re just different vorlds.

vich I imagine it can.he couldn’t drink malt liquor and whiskey and drive his truck and talk top secret government X-Files bullshit with a Nobel Laureate all at the same time. He pressed his palms into his eyes and screwed them back and forth. and perhaps any mythical animal man can imagine. or ze form of any man or woman. seemed like the time to impress her: he would never in his life have another shot at heroism like this. He wasn’t ready to go in yet but he didn’t feel like driving around anymore -. more to himself than to Blitzen. “I’m fried. can take any form really." "Vaht are you talking about?" ." "What?" "Ze morphoplasm is an indefinite biological entity. The guy's made of mercury or something. No dice. if it can imagine. That was just too much. Trying to get the crazy out. Finally Blitzen came out with it. They were in front of Maya’s." he said again. said: “It can assume ze form of any animal known to man." Chris said. shifting shape --" "Why didn't you just tell me it was a shapeshifter? Like the wonder twins? Or Terminator Two?" "Vaht?" "Terminator Two. If he hadn’t been so crazy about Maya he would have given up a long time ago. but this. combined with his heroic recovery of little Ash earlier in the day.220 "This is insane. No way. "Insane. not quite a life form because it is life wizzout form.” he sighed. He parked the truck in his usual spot on the street out front.

" he said." "It's okay." Blitzen said.." ." "Okay. "Thanks. "Here you are." The music was still playing in the stereo: Pete Doherty sang: "What a Waster. vich can transform into any kind of cell zat iss necessary to create tissues unt organs around itself." he said.” Chris said. " Lemme have summa that Jack Daniels. "I really flipped out there for a second.221 "You're German and you don't know Terminator Two?" "I'm from Bensonhurst." Blitzen said. "Sorry. it is made from ezpecially irradiated stem zells." Chris took it and he noticed there was some schmutz on it.. A zmall portion of it iss not stem cells but a highly advanced zupercomputer vith a kvantum prozessor zurrounding a cloned limbic zystem and wrapped in actual gray matter. taking the bottle. and then let out a weak laugh. and he reached into the bag and got the bottle and handed it to Chris. You see. maybe some of it had spilled and dried into gook.” "Same thing." Chris asked Blitzen: “So it can be anything or anyone?” “Yes." "I have seen much verse. and taking a good long sip." "You got that right. "Ven crazy sings happen zumtimes people go crazy.

puzzled at how such an intelligent man could laugh when things seemed so dire." he said... but continued after a brief silence. "What's so funny?" Chris asked. his giggling having finally wound down. What could they have been thinking? And who were they anyway? And what kind of animal could the morphoplasm turn into to completely demolish the library like that? And the mad scientist. similar to ze violation committed. sighed and said: "Vell. you understand: curing uzzavize incurable diseases. "Vell. smiling wryly. and maybe it didn't vant to be a killing machine. zat same government iss.. saying: "Spending millions -. He couldn't believe they'd given this guy the Nobel Peace Prize.. or vas. billions and possibly trillions of dollars on ze research and development of an organic killing machine engineered from ze very same cells!" before bursting into a fit of giggling so uninhibited as to be disturbing. "Well. "And zey made it so smart zat it may have decided it didn't want to verk for zem. in the abortion of fetuses. ze same government zat vitholds funds for medical research involving stem cells – for healing people. but you know. nussing less zan modern-day medical miracles – on zee grounds zat to use zaid stem cells vould be a violation of ze sanctity of human life. according to the party in power and their president. right? Like the president hates stem cells because it's abortion or something." and here he stopped talking and laughed for a while before continuing. waving his hand and laughing a little. my vork iss done .nay. Zey say it iss good to have ze best veapons and intelligence to keep uzzer countries from killing a lot of people." Chris regarded him with a kind of inebriated look of shock and uncomprehension such as is often seen in bad horror movies." “Zey'll fund anysing zat can kill people or steal zecrets." he trailed off...222 "I thought the government won't fund stem cells or something.

indignant. Chris was very puzzled and did not know how to proceed. Chris sat there in blankeyed shock as Arthur and Finnegan came walking up the street." "Zat von't be necessary." "Not yet. he winked again. So he asked Blitzen. "Because if you think --" "--Zat von't be necessary." "Did you want me to take you somewhere or something?" Chris asked.223 here. I guess I should be going. It gave him a headache and a pain in the chest but he didn't care. his eyes like twin suns blazing in his face. took ." Blitzen said. all sixteen ounces downgullet. He drank it and then he took out a can of Icehouse. popped it and chugged it all. who’d taken off his sunglasses now and was looking at him. and then slithered away up into the sky. For half a minute they both just sat there. a slick glistening film. leaving where he'd sat the viscid residue of the very Morphoplasm itself. He got the whiskey out of the bag and recognized now that the gook on it was morphoplasm residue. She knows a lot more about this kind of stuff. Where would Blitzen go if he wasn't going to come into Maya's? Would he just get out and walk away? Did he expect Chris to drive him somewhere? Something wasn't right. He put the empty can back in the bag." Blitzen said matter-of-factly." and then: "My verk is done here. smiling. he paid them no mind. "I want you to come talk to Maya about this with me. He hadn’t explained how could he know all of the things he knew about the Morphoplasm project.how do you know about all of this?" Blitzen just chuckled and said: "Vouldn't you like to know. and changed in a quick flickerflow like a television image into a plumed serpent. and before Chris could be stunned into silence by this he asked: "Dude -." Chris said. A punchline. and then. Time for me to go.

Or laugh at you. "Fuh-kin-A. not me. I'm not crazy. But it happened. Chris said to himself." This was one of those things you never tell anyone about. Or you do. So he drank." he said. In the distance he believed he heard someone laughing. The world is. End Book IV . "Fuckin A. He looked out through the windshield and up into the sky.224 out the last full one and opened it. sucked the foam off and took a sip. Got to drink my way out of this thinking problem. Fuh-kin-A. The world is crazy. He tried not to think. he thought to himself. It had happened. and they lock you up. The world had gone all the way fullscale crazy.

225 Book V 43. right around where the desert becomes a Hell. where even if one sees clearly. the sun burning hotter in the turning of the day silently screaming down at the scorched red Wastralia desert like an angry mute wargod and her mind shaken loose by a sudden violence and a sudden death and a sudden silence like her own death and she can’t. nightmare nowheres. Inner Wastralia starts just beyond the Borderlands Shopping Center. (but it's hard to tell sometimes when you're in the Prophet Margin. at the last curve in the road in the last mapable parts of the penumbral region outside Inner Wastralia that lay between the City of Faith and the Big Nothing. but it doesn’t matter what she wants or what she tries just what she does and she is not dead yet she is alive and she goes. try to go on anymore now. Within Inner Wastralia. out into the shimmering distances. she doesn’t want to. deltaing starkly out into the timebleached and sunsere urgatorial expanse of Outer Wastralia with its rectilinear neverending one-dimensional deathblack road stretching out into that pitiless infinity of dust like the dark serpent of all the world’s waste. and she looked up into the hardbright lapis lazuli heaven where great . looking out into the desert. disappearing at the far horizon over the curve of the turning world into vexed vectors. that vast biblical wilderness known as Outer Wastralia. the vision is of the last thinning stragglestrands of human civilization socalled. whereat even the sanest and the soberest are easily made slaves to their own visions and become lost in madness. Pete had crashed the car and died just as they were coming around Big Herm to Merestone Pass. Spidering uncertainly onward back toward the City of Faith whence she’d come before this most recent brush with death. the region on the outer edge before Big Herm and the Merestone Pass is known as the Prophet Margin. mirage and possibly revelation.

226 scavenger birds wheeled in widening gyres like beelzabuzzin flies round the axis that ran between the zeroegg foci of the deadly lifegiving sun above and the dead and bleeding man at the merestone below. And she did carry on and she did not look back no that way is death let’s go and wobbling along with still such a long way to go in the increasing heat. devouring and transubstantiating him. and she had seen the steering wheel go up to and into his chest mashing instantly and crushing the axis mundi heart round which ran the orbit of his blood. It was always hotter out in the lowlands. down in the outlands. and she wondered what it was about men that they could walk on the moon and harness the sun but they can’t learn how to drink getting drunk all these thousands of years and they can’t get any better at it everytime they do it it’s like it’s still five thousand years ago and they can build the Eiffel Tower and the . She did not know how she’d managed to salvage the rucksack and the bottle from the wreckage and the terrible silence but memory is irrelevant at this juncture she is alive and she goes on she's not dead yet all she knew was that she had the whiskey in the bag and that she was sad and she was mad and she was glad and she would not look back she knew that she must carry on as sure as her late not so great great nephew was carrion waiting for the scavengers to come down and perform their part in the unending fertility ritual of the turning world. which had been deprived of its rhythm (and it poured out onto the deathblack road puddling in Rorschach shapes representing what thing beyond imagining) but she did not look back she was alive she is alive she is going to live(!) as she spiderhobbled on down the road back to civilization where elderly ladies with two canes are taken care of by people who care and she had seen the steering column extending as death differentiated out of the dark dashboard pushing the wheel into his chest and crushing his heart and his lungs and snuffing the rhythms that he’d lived to and she was sad that he was dead and mad at God whom she sometimes expected she’d outlived because of the way she’d seen the world change in her lifetime but she was glad that Peter had not suffered and she did not know how far it was to the bar that they’d passed on the way out a ways back around the inner boundary of the Prophet Margin and she was a hundred years old but she was not dead yet she is alive and she spiderhobbled her hundred year old body down that lonesome desert road shrunken and hunched almost curled like a gestating fetus slouching toward the city out of this vexed nightmare on slow thighs each second coming slower and slower and the big bottle of Jim Beam in a rucksack slung over her shoulders getting heavier and heavier on her back.

alone and alive. She hates death not because she fears it but because it leaves her alone with this terrible growing silence and everyone around her dies and she lives on and on and on and sometimes she wishes that she could hurry up and die and it occurs to her that perhaps she merely lacks the technology maybe but she forgets it nearly as fast as it had occurred to her as it recedes back into the primordial darkness whence it had sprung. and she knows it’s in her blood too she knows this ageless thing gene genie daimon thirst spirit demon in her blood like her father before her and his mother before him we have to drink we want it all we got the pan urge. the pentagrueling (as in five times as grueling as the gruelingest labor) job this allthirsty whiskey work running through the genealogy and she should have told him don’t touch that whiskey just keep your hands on the wheel but he’s dead now and she goes on. Has seen many things be born and grow and blossom wilt and die. and everything that is born (which is everything) . she will not look back. and wheels to put trucks on and wheels to steer them into stones with and maybe the wheel of the world will wash the blood away as it turns through the water of time. She does not know why she found her way unscathed out of the mangled wreckage but she knows that she is alive yet and she spiderhobbles on down the road past a cattleskull with a flower growing out of it the likes of which she’d never seen before and she is a hundred years old and has seen many flowers. some things know no progress and eternally return. she is not dead yet she is spiderhobbling down the road and sad and glad and mad and she wished she’d told Pete to wait to drink but he had to get drunk as soon as possible which some men just do archaic as it sounds. but maybe not. or steer the dead back into the land of the living but she is not dead yet and she will not look back she will spider on with her two canes and her whiskey. Man made whiskey for what? To reel and veer and sing and dance and love and fight. but not the wheel. Man mastered fire and man made religion and he can tell you how the universe began but drinking? and man can make the wheel (and wheels upon wheels within wheels ever wheeling) to move faster. and whiskey mixes well with many things. turn air and water into lightning and lightning into light and heat and home and hearth. to keep time. leaving her alone again.227 Vatican but they don’t know how to drink without getting in some godawful trouble or another. and you cannot turn time your own way to get the bloodstain off of the stone.

. But we should be thankful for our mirages our blessing is that we labor under the most beautiful misapprehensions and she is tired and her bones hurt and it is a long long way to anywhere but O! suddenly the sun feels beautiful the way it lovingly touches her skin and she feels like a baby in that lovelike and nurturing incandescence of motherlight and she even laughs a little like bubbles of air rising up out of the darkness of her body and she thinks to herself I’m as old as dirt so why not call the sun my mother ? And she remembers then the year nineteen hundred and ten when she was but all of five years old. much like how humans feel about mirrors. is bad luck for cats.. (Parenthetically digressing to say that the reason cats don’t like getting wet is that they hold water sacred and consider it’s purpose on earth to be mirrormancy and eidetic communion and that to be hit by broken or unstill water. water and glass. or the coiled springsource of . everything dies. her parents brought home a cat and they let her name it and it was a gray and ghostly shecat so she named her Smokey. But she endures and she wonders what the place was that they’d passed on the way out she thinks it was The Mirage or The Oasis but maybe it was just a mirage and she wondered why mirages why miragenesis why visions at the Prophet Margin? she didn’t know the answer but maybe there is no answer maybe there are no answers life certainly is uncertain. moving ever-forward. she’d spent many days in bed she’d seen many many mirages and Smokey had come to her sometime during that time and had spoken to her and told her how all the stars in the sky were purry twinkly cosmic cats and that we can see their natures in ourselves when we twin ourselves in mirrors. and Time remembers or does it? (Perhaps being the oldest thing of all it has gone completely senile. curving outward and inward infinitely and infinitesimally.228 must eventually die. just a wee pentagirl. or to break water.) As she grew older and older it got harder and harder to remember things but a body remembers what it’s meant to remember the river remembers to run and the rain remembers to rain down and not up and the world remembers to turn round its axis and orbit the sun. a seashell of the Be. or has decided that memory is irrelevant it will not look back it will simply carry on carrying all the cosmos through the ages of space. She fell ill that year and almost died of fever.

229 cosmic tension. for the universe is in a grain of sand (on what beach by what ((m))ocean ebbing and flowing under the influence of what greater moon and Smokey had told her that the moon is an eye slowly winking and that someday she would get the joke) and she kept on and she saw another cattle skull on the side of the road with another alien flower growing out through its eyesocket like a vision. She was thirsty she was tired and she was failing and if she died then it would be okay but she was not dead yet and life lived is for sojourning so journeying on she quadrapedal-crept down the riveroad a way a lone a last a loved a long life she has led and yes. or the distant and distancing pinwheeling galaxies out there in the vast mocean void) and soon down the road something there in the distance maybe it’s merely a mirage or maybe it’s The Mirage but it’s something she is tired and sore now but enduring not looking back as she walks on all fours down the road through that penumbral region spiderhobbling uncertainly across the Prophet Margin as the day’s heat increases the earth turns into something else turning in light toward shadow and back into light only to die again in the evening and she is one hundred years old – that’s twelve hundred months that’s fiftytwo hundred weeks thirtysix thousand fivehundred days or onehundred and fortysix thousand hours or eightmillion sevenhundred sixtythousand minutes or fivehundred and twentyfivemillion sixhundredthousand seconds – but it’s all merely a moment and an eternity. sometimes it’s old and old and old and it’s sad and old it’s sad under the terrible sky and weary I go back to you the sky madfeary sadfury father sky on these miles and miles of riveroad through the desert moiling and toiling and loonely in the holy loneliness of her anagogic agon and she thinks I am passing out O! but she keeps going anyway away from the Wastralian wilderness a long long way along the long black road and the (m/M)irage is getting bigger but the heat is increasing and she feels like she’s slowly burning turning into a raisin but to rage against the dying of the light is her raison d’etre and she knows that she will still be a grape by the time she gets to the temple of Dionysus and yet she knows too that knowledge is uncertain otherwise there would be no Time but if she dies that’s okay because she knows that there will be someone there (then? will it be a time and place anymore?) to guide her through the wilderness of that unknown country and what dreams may come and of that she is more certain than she is of other things except for that everything’s uncertain and that’s not because she’s soft in .

a lone beacon in a vast and shining void like a dark star in a bright white sky.230 the head but because she knows hard science or did once though all she retains of it now is a certainty verging on religious faith that nothing is certain (except for perhaps religious faith) and she wants to get back to the city but she’ll settle for a crazy biker bar and she’s focused on it in the narrowing distance where it sits. though among those . I am not going to die. Do you hear me?” 44. Heaven in photonegative. Exactly how or why the citizenry degenerated into an unruly mob is unknown. I think I want to die: I am not going to die. She spiders along a little more and then stopping to cough and to look from side to side but she will not look back she is alive he is dead and she is sad and mad and he did it to himself and she is still alive she is not dead yet but very tired so very awfully terribly terribly tired but she will not sit she will not lay down there on the side of the road to die she begins to walk again and if she is going to die she says out loud: “If I am going to die I want to die on all four feet hear me” and she feels young now with a beautiful furious outrage that she has not known in decades burning cold in her like a smiling executioner’s eyes and she is alive and kicking hobbling a little faster now and she feels some new thing being born in her coming up and emerging from the deep hundred-year darkness of her soul up and breaking the surface soil and reaching out into the light as she approaches that dark star in the distance and she will be there soon and there was something new in her it swam out of the dark waters and it blossomed like fire and she said: “If I’m going to die it’s going to be on my own four feet you hear.

terrorized. Whether or not it was true didn't matter as much as that everyone was saying it.231 involved many believed that surely someone else involved knew how and with whom the words that everyone had been disseminating. I have seen him: he bears the mark of the serpent and he hides his eyes and his fangs flash like fire when he smiles. The words like bombs exploded and sent a shockwave from soul to soul among these normally peaceful people. Everyone knew that there were different versions but that it was all essentially the same story. paraphrasing. insult and violate our sanctity as a people. they believed it. and the Sea says to itself: “We must find this evil demon and rip him limb from preterite limb!” Then says back to . and with its evil and its darkness and chaos annihilate our bright and shining freedom. embellishing and being driven to action by. striking terror into their hearts. (Whispered): He walks among us. and hatred. death and damnation of the monster sent from the wilderness to destroy America. to wreak its wretched evil upon our sacred so(i/u)l. We must find this man – no. and even though they didn’t know who it was that first said what had been said and what s/he’d actually meant. as the City of Faith. some said. our Freedom. he's not even a man. had originated. a rapist of women and murderer of men. and we will put an end to his evil. find him and make him pay! The words were not always exactly those. so that even though some didn’t agree on certain details they all believed that the spirit of the original utterance lived on through it’s different bodily incarnations. he walks from shadow to shadow through our fair city and we must find him who wrought this evil upon us and bring him to justice before he can again attack. True untrue words passed on by terrified souls. erupted into riot. striking like lightning and making of the mob a heaving Sea of Ahabs blazing with mad-righteous and monomaniacal fury. He is a defiler of innocence and a devourer of children. derived from the same actual fact(s). but manifest in endless variations. he's a terrorist. that was the thematic essence of the strange fever-fire that had erupted from the depths of the townfolks’ collective urmind. tucked snugly in the dusty bosom of the Blood of Christ mountains. one nation under God. because someone had said that someone had kind of said that somebody seemed to have said: I have seen the terrorist and he is among us. mad for the judgment. our Liberty and our Justice as Americans. and outrage. we must rout him out and bring him to justice. and soon everybody had heard or misheard it from someone and told or mistold it to someone else.

verily and amen! We will seek him out – (and one among them says but what if it’s just a symbol of some thing that will never die? and the rest holler back well we’ll kill the symbol then!) – we’ll look under every rock and shine our light in every shadow and we will find him and with our bare hands rend him to shreds. we will find him!” Up in the sunbright heavens one lone stringy cloud snaked across the sun. A snaky cloud slithered off of the sun as it moved slowly towards night. They came upon Chris's truck. the Brave and the Free. dispersing him in the winds of the world that he may never wreak his havok upon the good people of the City of Faith again. and the terrorist too will be tamed. yea. not even moving anymore. Finnegan looked up: behind the phantom sun that glared in the glass he saw Chris sitting there. for we founded this city as a peaceful sanctuary for good people to live in and procreate. not a moth.232 itself: “Yes. to a thousand. phantom sun like a fever halo over his wasted angel head. Arthur saw something moving in the lower periphery of his vision and looked down. 45.. Unto dust. Eventually the mobsea began to break up into its constituent Ahabs as they dispersed from the area around the ruins of the library and went forth in small groups or in pairs or alone to look under every stone and shine a light in every shadow and destroy the terrorist back to the primordial darkness whence he’d been spawned or spewed forth or shat out upon the land of the Good. a billion trillion pieces. . a million. our ancestors came here and tamed the hostile wilderness and gave it form. struggling: a moth: no.. created a civilization upon it. There was some thing moving strangely under the wheel – trapped. yes.

A tear ran down his cheek. the hand. and strange. even stranger than this: but this is pretty strange. and meant to examine it. No. Spots and speckles swimming like featureless precambrian urfish across it's skin. He thought he’d dropped it. Music. he thought to himself. speckled with darker gray spots. an arrowhead maybe: a sweet symmetry and geometry to it suggesting the mind. He crouched down and gently loosed it from under the wheel. and after he’d gotten it out from under the wheel he held it cupped in the palm of his hand.. “Saw what?” “What are you talking about?” . “You saw that?” Arthur gasped.. The sunlight passed through it releasing a brief burst of color.” Finnegan said. “Look at em. but suddenly there was a spark like touching a doorknob after walking across a carpet in socks (and what doorknob to what door to what otherworld was this) and he pulled his hand away in reflex. it's moving again. the work of man: an arrowhead then.233 Maybe he was just stoned. Living stone? More likely to me today than it would have been day before yesterday. but strange things have been happening lately. struggling and working under the wheel. He smiled. as a puddle of water with motoroil in it. careful with his soft hands not to hurt it. instinctively. this ancient newborn dark moving thing imbued with what inner light. but looking up he saw it flying away.” kablooming into myriad fluttering flowerpetals red orange yellow green blue indigo violet flying apart in prismatic scatteration briefly bright and vivid before resolving back into the great source chord of the sunlight. dark gray. or shadows of the original “moth. he squinted: a stone. not all gray exactly but subtly colorous. fluttering mothlike into the bright void of the sky and then diffracting into different-colored moths.

His mouth hung open slightly.234 “What are you talking about?” “What’d you want me to look at?” “The dude in the truck. It did not seem so. Then something caught his eye." . Chris.” Arthur said.” “Where?” Finnegan asked. He visored his eyes with a flattened hand and moved his head so that he could see Chris without the glare distorting everything. whatsisname. shuddering. He was sitting there staring blankly.” Arthur looked. Arthur nodded his head at Jim Daniels’ house where there was some yellow police tape wrapped around the trees and a lamp-post. not a moth. "That guy from your dart team?" "Yeah. he got murdered. Perhaps beyond. (Most stones anyway. The lamp was still lit but just then it went out. "That's Jim Daniels' house. No. at the glass of the windshield. some bright color fluttering in his peripheral vision: another moth of many colors maybe.) “What the hell’s a matter with him?” “I dunno. He was still as a stone. He said to Finnegan: “Check that out. although he knew what Arthur was talking about. catatonically." Finnegan said. A sign. He looked over. Chris was up in the cab of the truck.

235 "What?" "Geraldo murdered him. I thought I told you already.. "You think we should do something about him?" Finnegan said. thought for a moment." Arthur said." Finnegan said. where his uterus would have been if he were a woman. "Geraldo?" "No." Finnegan said. That's why the cops came to see me." "You drunk bastard. he just seems spaced out or something.” . and he flipped out and turned himself in and told the cops about Geraldo. thinking.. that dude." "Maybe we should knock on the window or the door or something. Chris. I don’t think he’s dead. Maybe he was smoking dust or snorted some K or somethin. Finnegan put his hand over his lower abdomen." "I dunno. then said: "Let's just walk around in front of the truck and then he'll see us and if he doesn't wave or anything we'll just leave'm there. I'm okay now." "I know." "I tried to warn you about them." Arthur considered this." "Yeah I am. or imagining. smirking. Arthur was looking at Jim Daniels' house. "A lot of strange things have been happening lately.” “No. "Stevie Salazar was involved.

” “Well.” Finnegan chuckled. “Maybe we can just walk by and see if he sees us. “He’s a dick. Arthur followed. “Anyway let’s go.” “Java Hut. Java the Hut hates him.” Arthur said. “That big fat guy that owns it. Maybe.” Finnegan remonstrated.” “Java the Hut?” “Yeah.. “My mistake.” “What?” Arthur asked. puzzled.” “Yeah. “Let’s go. Arthur saw him through the glass as he walked by and mistook him for his reflection.” “That’s cruel..236 “In the K-hole. That dude’s always at Java Hut.” Finnegan said.” Arthur said. “You suddenly wanna go to Java Hut?” “No.” “I’m bad as a motherfucker. If he’s not dead I don’t think we’re bad people for leaving him there.” Arthur said. grinning against his will. With Maya. Maybe he sleeps with his eyes open. For some . Ash watched from a window.” He walked around the front of the truck and toward the house.

"Fuckit. him – it seemed like a him – and he got bigger much more quickly then the (M/m)irage had been and so it finally felt like she was getting somewhere and she smiled and her dentures jumped out and broke into a hundred pieces on the black road. The figure grew bigger and got closer and closer until they both stopped at about twenty paces apart as if to duel. "Oh well. towards it. coming towards her." And she hobbled onward in the burgeoning heat. “Are you a mirage?” she asked him. She wondered what time it was. still yet indistinct. Therefore motion. He regarded her with a calm insanity in his eyes like dead light. dormant details slouching in shadow waiting to be born: and then unexpectedly something was: differentiating out of the dark black block a human figure emerges. walking." she muttered gummily. getting bigger and closer more quickly than seemed right to her: it was hard to tell distances in the desert. And time. Soon the figure was close and she hobbled on. 46. But instead of saying yes or no he asked her mechanically: “Do you have any limes?” . The (M/m)irage was a black block in the blank desert distance slowly growing as she moved on. She eyed him coolly. He had some crazy hair like he’d been struck by lightning or something.237 reason all that day there had been endless tricks of light.

The bag was too heavy for her to carry any more and he seemed like he might need a drink. Is there a bar back there behind you?” “Yeah. It might inject some common sense into him. She tapped her right cane on the road in front of her a few times. “And if I don’t get back to my house soon with some limes my wife’s gonna kill me. slowly and carefully. moving her canes cautiously but expertly to facilitate the maneuver.” he said. Take the bag. too. To help herself. Lying and laughing.” but then she asked him: “Would you like some whiskey? You can have mine. It’s too heavy. just like all the rest. “But they’re all liars. She said: “I just can’t carry my whiskey anymore. Although. frowning toothlessly. the rucksack presented for the taking. that might have been a little too much to expect. but she could tell he was thinking about taking it. by the looks of him.” she said. “Sorry. But she would try anyway.” he said. to help him.” “Oh. Take the bag.” she said.” he said.” and she turned slowly around.” “Well. so that she could manage loosing herself from the straps one at a time without dropping either of . “Everything’s disintegrating into lies. I asked them if they had any limes and they said they did but it turns out they didn’t.” she said.238 “No.” she said. They were lying. She sucked her lips in and kind of rolled them between her gums. “Take it.” After a few moments’ hesitation he walked over to her and took the bag off of her back. Take it.” “I don’t think so. Thinking. and soon she had her hunched back to him. “Go on. He was about to say “it’s all just lies and laughter.

” he said to her hunched back as she hobbled away. “Thank you for the gift. “I will remember you. Not only that she could carry such a weight but that anyone would give away that much whiskey.” Bobby said dreamily. Finally he had the bag and she’d turned back around and they stood there facing each other. or the desert. She believed him.” but she didn’t think that was true. just a nip. No. How far is it to that bar back there?” “I dunno. more to herself. Contemplating a sip.” she said.” she said. I’ve got to be going. And he went on his way. than to him.” “I doubt that.” she said. “There you go. he turned around and looked down the road at her. It was getting hotter. She was a dark thing slowly shrinking and her darkening form divested itself of any last detail as she converged upon the silhouette of the bar in the distance and moving into it she disappeared completely. He was surprised at how heavy the bag was. saying: “Well. And she moved on. of whiskey. he told himself. It seemed to mean . After a while. Not yet. a strange slow turning of the body that seemed choreographed or ritualistic. rucksack slung over his shoulders.239 her canes. her small silhouette becoming one with the darkness. “Okay then. the heat rose off the road in snaky waves that warped the light. “Okay then.” Bobby said. Then he added: “It’s all lies anyway. And she turned back around.” “Okay.

or had had beer for both. he said to himself. which had definitely been contributing factors in his state of mind or lack thereof. And so. that vision. although it could have been a woman. With a black hood pulled up over head. After she was gone and there was no trace of her save the bottle of whiskey. He'd already been not only delusional but dehydrated as well. The other had its beak buried deep in his eyesocket and was making small quick movements with its head. he shivered. past Big Herm to the bridge at Merestone Pass. He stopped briefly in order to survey the situation. just in case. where the woman seemed to have walked before disappearing. The man's blood was on the road and Bobby could see ghosts rising up and out of it like steam dissipating into the air and light. This really is magic whiskey. He unscrewed the top and took a few gulps: it was hot. But it seemed like a man. And he turned around and looked back down at the bar. He took a drink and moved on. The dream. And a wet fire flooded his being. but he pushed the inclination to believe that out of his mind and turned back around and went again on his way. There was a figure dressed all in black on the other side of the bridge. It just seemed like a man and not a woman. dehydrated and thirsty as he was. probably. What an intricately detailed dream. nor lunch. nor had he had breakfast. So. Someone had drunk some of it already but there was still a lot left. In which case he should drink some right away. his body absorbed the whiskey almost instantly and circulated it almost instantaneously to every parched cell in his body.240 something. he wondered if that old desert crone had been real or just a dream: if she was a memory then the whiskey was probably just regular whiskey. face hidden in shadow. Man alive. he thought to himself and then continued on his way. A man. . he reached back into the rucksack and took the whiskey out. She really was a dream. he thought to himself. His torso was crushed and some of his viscera were hanging out and one of the vultures pecked and pulled at his organs. After a while he came to the last turn in the road before Merestone Pass and he saw two vultures eating a dead man. but if she was a dream then the whiskey might be magic whiskey. The dead man lay half-in half-out of a big and twisted piece of metal that might once have been a pickup truck.

sagging slightly as it spanned the deep canyon. He looked at the figure in black: definitely a dream – what real thing would dress all in black with his hood up in this heat? Holding heavylooking things gleaming metallic in the bright sunlight. the man with the hood – what real thing holds a sword in one hand and a scythe in the other? . In his hands with his arms hanging down. It was a narrow bridge. They were hard to make out but as he neared the figure he saw the two things for what they were. just barely two lanes and one sidewalk. He crossed the bridge on the pedestrian's walk on the left side. and very long. So he was definitely a dream then.241 Definitely a dream.

Jennica thought to herself.242 47. but it hadn't filled him up. doing to Jess (he’d been shirtless as he'd butchered her and Jennica had watched him. He'd just swallowed the last piece of the first thing he'd cooked: he liked the taste a lot. always hungry. Outside the sun was shining and the birds were singing. The eating of the more succulent cuts was just a kind of foreplay preceding the true consummation. was. or the cooling wounded body that had once been poor Jess who did not know that Gabriel was the Angel of Death. watched the snake tattoos seethe and writhe all over his torso. what he had been. screaming wildly with her eyes. but he had a certain way that things were supposed to be. but the main course was still yet to come. but inside you couldn't hear them. behind knowing that drove him ruthlessly. him. so it ended up getting a little sloppy. an intuition: he wanted to keep her alive. and the sunlight came in through closed curtains that bled the light a pale sickly gray and the beams seemed to sag. The redhead had really put up a fight. and he’d enjoyed it and appreciated it. very quiet. arms and shoulders). he was still hungry. an intimation. had to. There had been noise. but now it was quiet. like it was holding its breath and running out of time. He wiped the glistening grease off of his chin. . which complicated things. Now she’s notJess. It had been good. She was in a straightback chair bound and gagged with duct tape in the corner of the room. Gabriel smiled as the room once again became silent. the true communion. very obviously terrified of. as living things and their struggles so often tend to be. terrorized by. If he'd just killed her it would have made things easier. Thick and sickening the smell of frying flesh in the air. for some reason beyond. was always there cracking the whip. the room very still but about to explode.

. where he’d cooked her flesh and blood. closed her eyes.. next to the kitchen. a howling wolf with mouth upturned and O’d. the dripping blood. different than if he'd had a soul. he did not smell the thick aroma of sautéed fillet of gluteus maximus feminae that saturated the air. They were in the dining room. it obsessed him. He even forgot that the redhead was there (though she was.243 Now she is wasJess. to ensoul himself by swallowing what he'd tasted when he'd kissed her at the park so that it might act as some seed of light and grow into a garden in his darkness and give form to his inner wilderness. a psychedelic lemur. trying to stop time but failing. everything was different now. something. But she did not: she felt driven by some force beyond or behind her knowing to bear witness. still bleeding. a smirking coyote. getting louder and louder like a latenight dripping faucet. in. As he stood there trying to think a sound came through the silence. the blood slowly flowing. a different time now. watching wideyed from the shadows). but it hadn't worked (yet). And she watched and went mad inside as the snakes seethed and writhed as his muscles moved around beneath his skin. He did not know how much time passed. outside of Time in that otherspace of being invoked in the initial stages of the ritual. He’d taken the sacrament so many times in his endless desperate attempts at communion with the race of the souled (of which he was and always had been a member knowing or not). or of garish bright-tint tin. And it seemed like she could have looked away. or rather. flowing out of her and over the dark polished wood of the altar table and down onto the carpet in drips drops and threads. This problem became his one concern. but no china. one in salmon-colored alabaster. She felt like she was going to explode or fall out of time into an endless empty space where it would forever be only her and terror and her silent screams all undiminishing forever flailing helplessly and hopelessly lost. with her still laid out naked on the dining room table. (But still he thought that he did not have a soul and here now its absence had become much more . a bear standing upright with its head quizzically cocked and many many different angels. mostly of clay painted white and blue like sky. he was on. he simply stared at the china cabinet past his reflection in the glass to the figurines behind: a Kokopelli Storyteller. anything.

. a ritual. . he was parched. He'd always been very puzzled by his own. a series of acts. He didn’t see why not. brains.. starving. somehow. He wondered if that was viable. He’d always felt it was missing something.) And now. . . convinced that she had the remedy and that it was hidden in her somewhere and that he would get to it eventually.... beyond fear now. He’d realized upon coming to Jess’s house that it was the house he’d seen in his vision.244 conspicuous.he definitely felt like he was on the right track: he’d had a vision while walking back to Jess’s house from Peralta Park watching the two women’s asses go back and forth hypnotically in subtle undulations sending him into a trance that blossomed into a vision that spawned an act. wondering why his brain worked the way it did. here in this synchramental bubble awaiting thought or inspiration but having trouble focusing – he wanted to remove her brain but he didn’t know exactly how to go about doing it. He went looking through the kitchen and ransacking his own brain for ideas.although. Jennica watched from her shade. But there was only one way to find out. After some thought he decided he could pry her eyes out and take out her brain through the sockets. Strange things. a calm insanity in her eyes like dead light... He walked back into the dining room from the kitchen with a number of cooking and eating utensils.. Probably he could remedy that with hers. mad with misguided spiritual lust. but even in this time outside of time the solution was not coming fast enough. if you could get someone's brain through their eyes.

but Brit had noticed that she'd really been blossoming lately." Charles had been all glum. If Java the Hut came in and saw the kitchen. Abbey with her slinky ringlets of bouncing blonde hair.. which was a disaster area and which it was his turn to do but which he kept putting off. her springy youthful exuberance. the state that it was in.. I'll have my state and national licenses for massage therapy and prism healing by the . her milky mock-virgin glow. He seemed pretty glad to see her today after being down because he'd been so looking forward to working with Maya. This had been going on for years. She hoped that it would cheer Charles up enough that he might even get to work cleaning the kitchen. So she was glad that he was glad that Abbey had come in to give him the attention and affection that he needed. he would freeze them both in carbonite. Brit sometimes thought. because she thought he was gay. but she did care about how when Charles got all gloomy and mopey and dopey he didn't do much work. Sludge time barely moving. Now it was the other way around. and young girls love falling for gay guys) who always came in and talked to him. Wilco sing through the speakers: "I'm a wheel. and she thought that one of these days he might actually go for it. she thought she remembered meeting her on her first day like 4 years ago. Usually Charles didn't give Abbey much attention. Abbey was this teenage girl who had a crush on Charles (possibly. so Brit was actually glad when Abbey came in. When she had braces and no breasts. But I really don't give a shit.245 48. and Brit was pretty sure that Abbey had been coming in since she'd started working there. Eighteen or nineteen. She was out of high school now. it didn't matter. Charles had been working at Java Hut since before Brit worked there and even maybe since before Maya. she thought to herself. just kind of sludged around depressing himself all over everything. When Brit took over Maya's shift he’d gotten all depressed. And Brit didn't care so much about how everybody in the whole damn city was in love with Maya.

"The usual?" Charles asked her after she'd hopped up onto her usual stool and put her forearms on the bar. Charles started making it. She and Charles always talked a lot.." “What’s goin on out in the great wide world today. and he had his headphones on and was writing in his journal. showing a little cleavage and tapping a bebop d'bop rhythm with her bubblegum pink fingernails. a look of shock on her face." she said. leaning on her elbows.v. was the skinny college dude that everybody knew but not by name. and loud. "Yeah. this siesta of the damned. Walking by. Her usual was a vanilla soy latte.” Charles said.246 end of the month so fuck all that. “Omigod – haven’t you guy’s heard?” she gasped. agitated. or listening to the radio or anything?” she asked. bouncing a little on her stool. but this was more a lot than usual.. and the only legitemate patron during this. “We listen to CD’s in here. twisted the fresh-ground beans into place and flipped a switch. thanks to Ab. holding ostensibly private conversations that everyone always overheard. . “About what?” “Haven’t you been watching t. Wilco sang: "Theologians. The only person who didn't hear them. we just assume that the world outside is going to hell. the dread sludge time after the lunch rush and before the after-work rush. Brit said: “Yeah. Ab?” Charles called Abbey “Ab” when he was in a good mood. Abbey had a lot to say.” kind of laughing. There was a hissing sound and a lull in the conversation. which was how it always was. which he seemed to be in now.

"Murder?" Brit chirped. and pausing for a moment.. and the radio. Brit and Charles just stood there agawk. "So you guys don't know anything about the murder or the bombing? They've both been all over the t. for emphasis. "Or the terrorist attack?" And at this both their jaws dropped. "Well.v. before she finally told them all about it: how Jim Daniels had been murdered (whom Brit recognized as Maya's neighbor) and how an accomplice had wigged out and confessed.” "We didn't know. kind of smiling and frowning at the same time. "And I think they like totally think it's like the same guy that did both. how someone had bombed the library sometime around dawn." Abbey said hurriedly. Charles gasped effeminately. waiting for her to go on. stunned. aware of the seriousness of the events but happy to have found two people who hadn't heard yet so that she could break the news to them." Abbey said. Abbey. . and how she." Charles and Brit said meekly. "Terrorists?" Charles gasped. thought that they thought that the murderer and the terrorist were one and the same guy.247 "Did you guys hear about the murder?" Hearing this Brit stopped where she was." Abbey said. "Yeah.. a little ashamed.

..I just want it all to be over. "Fucking way. "No.. And there's even some crazy scientist going around trying to tell everyone that there's no terrorists and that it's all some crazy government cover-up because something went wrong up at Los Alamos.." she said." Abbey said.. from side to side. and there's this one guy walking around with a giant cross who says it's a revelation which I don't know whatall he's talkin about cause I wasn't like realizing anything or having any epiphanies or anything -.. silly -. like. Each one had so many questions as to be speechless." "Chris?" Brit asked.248 "No way. specifically to Brit (knowing that Chris pined for Maya too and was considered a rival by Charles. . . "Way. shaking his head slowly. dude..." Charles gawped. taken aback." Abbey said." Charles said.forever. "This is like the biggest thing to happen around here since.the terrorist." "No fucking way. Then Abbey said: "They say he's connected to the Mexican Mafia and Al Qaeda. There were a buncha people at the library. Chris was there." Brit and Charles were both blown away. nodding. nodding. and knowing that Charles hated the very mention of the name because he knew that Maya liked Chris better than him which Abbey liked to remind him of as part of her campaign to steer him away from Maya and towards herself) but Brit just shrugged. incredulously. "Everyone's out looking for him. Up until a few minutes ago it had just seemed like the same old lameass kind of day at the Hut.

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Logan and Paz walked in to the usual cacophonous fanfare of the jangle balls that J the H had put on the door (and forbidden anyone from removing even though everyone hated the ugly noises they made; but Java the Hut had bought them for the Java Hut and he would not just throw them away,) just as Abbey was about to tell them more. Both of the detectives were a little disheveled, sweaty, kind of wildeyed.

Brit and Charles went into service mode, and Abbey spun around on her stool to face them. She knew Logan well because he’d graduated high-school with her oldest brother Stephen and used to come over their house all the time. “Hello there boys,” she said coquettishly. Brit found herself scowling slightly at that although she didn’t know if it was because she thought Abbey was acting in poor taste or that she envied Abbey her youth and her slinky blonde ringlets and her milky mock-virgin glow or most likely all three, but it wasn’t a serious scowl, more comical (like “why I oughtta...”) and she even laughed at herself a little.

“Hey little sister,” Logan said. Paz just nodded to her, then held his two fingers up in a V so that Brit could see and said: “Two iced coffees.”

“Iced coffees, huh?” Brit asked. Logan and Paz were regulars and they always just got regular coffee.

“Yeah,” Paz said. “It’s getting hot out there.”

"It really is," Logan said, taking a seat next to Abbey. "It's like in the past two three days we've had all four seasons."

"And a murder and a war and a birth."

"A birth?" Abbey and Brit both asked, their eyes lighting up.

"Yeah," Logan said. "Claire Blaney from the east side had a baby.”

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“She used to come in here all the time,” Charles said wistfully. “I wonder what ever happened to her...”

“She got pregnant and had a baby you jackass,” Brit said, laughing, swatting him in the head. He cringed playfully.

“What’s its name? Izzit a boy or a girl?” Abbey asked.

“Girl; Erin,” Logan said. The Logans and the Blaneys were intricately interknit. And on the other side of the Logans from the Blaneys were the Finnegans. But the Logans and the Finnegans tended not to mingle, really, because the Logans tended to be cops and the Finnegans tended to be Finnegans; known for generations as happy if mildly psychotic and/or psychopathic outlaws who, conversely, looked down on the Logans every chance they got, because the Finnegan men had (allegedly – they are tellers of tall tales, the Finnegans) been on the front lines in every major military conflict of the twentieth century, but the Logans, even though they had a legacy of protecting and s(w)erving in the city for generations, were notoriously 4F when Uncle Sam came a knockin, with their heart murmurs and their trick knees and the asthma and the epilepsy and the diabetes and the jimmyleg... you name it. And yet it never kept any of them from being cops because of a long tradition of nepotism in the CFPD, which all of the townspeople agreed was a good thing even if outsiders thought it corrupt, because if the Logans weren’t made into cops they would’ve been a worse bunch of drunken troublemakers than the Finnegans. “After Erin Roach,” Logan said. “Her friend from high-school.”

“Oh yeah...” Charles said. He remembered Erin and Claire from high school.

“And didn’t Erin Roach already have a baby that she’d named after Claire Blaney?” Brit asked. Then added: “I forgot where I heard that.”

“Yeah,” Logan said, taking a handful of napkins out of a dispenser and mopping some of the sweat off of

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his forehead.

“Well good for Claire Blaney and Erin Roach and everybody else,” Charles said gayly.

“Hear hear,” Paz said. “Now I need a drink to make a toast.”

And Brit handed both men their drinks. “Here you go, guys. Here, here.”

And they all raised their glasses or mugs for a toast to Claire’s new daughter, Erin.

The mood was unusual now in the Hut, more relaxed and familiar than usual. Like they were all old friends come back from long trips to distant places. Usually Brit didn’t like cops, was leery of them, because she was always smoking weed. And usually Logan and Paz didn’t like Charles because he was either 0.) gay or 1.) going to screw Abbey, neither of which was acceptable. And usually Abbey hated Brit because she saw in Brit her unexciting future as a local, bled of dreams, pride and glamour, laid out before her; and Brit usually hated how Abbey, like most young girls who thought that they were going places bigger and better than the little City of Faith or the Java Hut, projected her dread predictions of a lifetime of dreary monotony upon her, which Brit knew because she could see how people projected; but today it didn't matter, today everyone was okay with everyone, all made kin by communal unspoken fear, perhaps even unfelt among some, but flowing in the undercurrents of their souls.

They spoke of many things and felt differently about different things than they would have in the days before this day. And they seemed to bond in speech but truly it was more by virtue of an unspoken thing that seethed darkly beneath the surface of their words.

Abbey asked the detectives: “So what’s going on with the bad stuff then?”

"What, with Geraldo and all that stuff?" Paz asked, then waved his hand p’shaw and said: "You already

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know all about that."

"Yeah," Logan said. "The press are like flies on shit. They’re everywhere already. There's actually a reporter up my ass with a microscope and a tape recorder right now." This made Abbey laugh unexpectedly so that she spit a spray of soy latte in a misty beige arc over the counter and onto the back wall and floor, which made Charles laugh so hard that he almost fell down.

But Brit was not as amused, though she was not as annoyed as she might have been. She really did want to know what was going on. She said: "Seriously though -- what happened? Charles and I haven't heard anything, we've been here since really early with no radio or t.v."

"Did you feel the earth move early this morning?" Logan asked her.

"Well, yeah..." Brit said.

"That was the gooey bomb...." Paz said.

I've never heard anyone call it that, Brit thought to herself. Although...

"Gooey bomb?" Charles snerked. "What the hell's that?"

"No you guys, this is really serious," Abbey said, embarrassed to be in love with Charles at this moment, with Detective Logan seeing him snerking, being so immature and making a faux pas like that. "They told about it on the news."

"What?" Brit asked, incredulous, suspicious. It felt like a dream to her. How would the press know about...

And Abbey, Logan and Paz explained in bits and pieces how such a thing happens, how a gooey bomb

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worked, could be built in the average suburban kitchen and easily detonated, the uses of sevengoo and imopolex-g as reactants... ...and none of them really knew everything about it in its totality but together out of their bits and fragments they created their with words and weird hand gestures a mosaic in which Brit and Charles could discern things resembling main ideas, salient details and dreadful implications.

And it was only after this long extrapolation that Brit realized two important things: 0.) that they were not talking about her excursion into she-play with Maya and that she had only thought that they had been as a result of an improbable series of misunderstandings involving simple literalisms that she’d mistaken for double entendre and 1.) that the cops were drunk.

But just to be sure, she asked them: “Have you guys been drinking?”

“Jussa little,” Logan said, grabbing more napkins to mop the sweat off of his brow.

“But it’s okay, we’re off duty,” Paz said. “As of oh one hundred – I mean thirteen hundred. Since thirteen o’clock,” he slurred, chuckling at himself, and now as Brit examined them closely she could see their eyes were bloodshot and that their faces were oily and that their hair wasn’t quite right.

“We’re fried,” Logan said. “We haven’t been off duty since JD’s house,” and he and Paz both looked down and shook their heads solemnly and a hush fell over the room.

“That was some fucked up shit, man,” Paz said, still shaking his head, crossing himself.

“Man,” Logan said. “I never liked Stevie Salazar, I mean he was always involved in some bad shit or another and making our job more frustrating than it already is, but... wouldn’t wish on Hitler what that sicko did to him.” ...but hoe-lee-shit, I

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“That Geraldo is a very bad man,” Paz said. “Fuckin Diablo, Holmes.”

“You said it Watson,” said Logan. An’ everybody knows he bombed the library. Everybody. And they’re gonna find him, too, and whoever catches him is gonna tell everybody else and then they’ll take him to the plaza and we'll all have a good ol’ time.” And then he leaned over, laughed darkly and said: “When judgment time comes for that motherfucker there will be no laws.”

“Especially for the lawmen,” Paz said.

“Especially for the lawmen,” Logan said, nodding.

Brit wasn’t sure she understood. Nor Charles: he didn’t know if that made him feel more safe or more afraid.

“We’ll find’m,” Paz said. “And it’s gonna be a long dark night for him,” Paz said.

“There are a lot of folks out there lookin for that motherfucker,” Logan said.

“Yeah,” Paz said. “And the National Guard should be here soon too.”

“Holy shit,” Charles said. He was beginning to feel overwhelmed by the immensity of the situation. And the mood was changing again, darkening now like the sky before a storm.

“It’s only a matter of time, now,” Logan said.

And they all nodded. Even the college guy, who was sitting there with them now and had put his I-pod and his journal away, nodded.

which was not uncommon. and he'd anticipated that things might get pretty crazy today but he hadn't imagined it would be like this so mixed up and messy e s with the l i n be ing so w i . But he had no use for figures. and occasionally he'd gotten involved. Chaos rears its ugly heads. always choosing the side that he thought was right and not being swept up in the mob (usually he'd sided with the cops and tried to help maintain order) like he'd seen other people do so often. If Big Mike knew what a metaphor or a hydra was he might have said that this day was a hydra.255 And Paz echoed: “It’s only a matter of time now. There had been numerous times when things had gotten crazy in the little city before.” And Brit wasn’t sure but she wanted to know: until what? 49. but this was a whole new confusion: everything was dividing and multiplying in ways that he was not ready for. he just knew that he was confused. where he'd seen things divide into sides and conflicts multiplying.

v.256 l d andblurryliketherewerentanylinesdefiningthingsanymore. he took off at a run and chased after the priest who (while he’d watched from mere feet away in slackjawed amazement) had zoomed past him with nary a glance much less a howdoyoudo and so Mike fell into pursuit and in running he felt very young too and there was a big smile stretched across his broad face like a dawn as he ran and ran and. Maya had the dish tuned to .. and had he not seen so many improbable things on this day he would not have believed his own eyes. running so hard he felt that he might burst into flame (and thinking it might not be such a bad thing) he opened his smiling mouth and called out (even though he'd thought himself breathless like most men he had a secret store of breath hidden away deep inside): "Father!" and he was laughing now. and he called out again: "Father!" 50.. the man he’d hitherto known as achy. but. few besides Big Mike watched passively. or have to say about all of this. Ash and Maya were watching t. and then unexpectedly he saw him. this being the day that it was it seemed right. when Arthur and Finnegan came a-knocking. He wondered where Father Montoya was and what he would think of. no lines divided them from the mob. The cops were part of the disorder now. old and half-crippled. although he was not doing it to entertain himself but rather because he’d been stunned stupid by the course of events that he’d witnessed since he got to the library. running down the street madly with the wild abandon of a schoolboy chasing an icecream truck.

” Arthur said as they walked in. Maria Juhuana. Richard Feynman had a Brooklyn accent and he’d won a Nobel Prize for his work in particle physics. who had traversed the mass gap and found the Higgs Boson on the other side. was interviewing celebrity particle physicist Hans Blitzen. “Thank you. and she being stoned (and even still a little drunk from the night before) as she was took no notice so that she opened the door wide and left it that way for a bit. he of the grassreen do. put her smoking glass down on the table and went to the door. Finnegan hurried out through the doorway and into the hall. Ash followed close at heel. saying: “Pasale. and so Ash was back out in the world after lunch and a catnap. so it wasn’t really that weird at all. and Finnegan was piss drunk and zonked everyother which way on thisnthat and whoknows whatall and had to race like a pisshorse and so did not notice the little kitty stealing away into the great wide world. However. and Arthur saw him go free but he merely smiled and said nothing for at that moment he believed in absolute freedom for every living thing. Maya reasoned stonedly to herself in the time that it took the soundwaves from Finnegan’s knocking knuckles to vibrate the from the slidinglass door through the air to her ear (according to physics anyway). Blitzen was talking about Gooey Bombs while “Light and Day” by the Polyphonic Spree played in the background (typical MTV∞ irony) as she shooed the cat off of her lap.” gesturing come-hither with her slender feminine fingers and receding into the dank haze of the dimly lit room.whereza can?” “Down the hall and on the right. And Maya invited Finnegan and Arthur in. stealthy as a shadow as was his wont. who did not seem like a Nobel Prize-winning physicist because of his thick Brooklyn accent. they were broadcasting live from the City of Faith and the MoebiuS trip’s intrepid vivacious and scantily-clad roving reporter of exotic but unknown ethnicity. And Finnegan said: “I gotta piss -. Arthur took the poem out of his pocket and handed it to Maya. rolling her eyes.257 MTV∞ ("The MoebiuS trip").” Maya said. and then she looked in his eyes and he became frightened and looked away. . Arthur rolled his eyes too.

although she thought that she knew.. He looked down at the floor.. “What’s this?” she asked.. or if he just knew (which is how it was supposed to be. blushing: he could feel his face all abloom with the heat. . and she was surprised. .if so would she sense it?). if maybe he’d seen her put the wordless letter in his mailbox on that snowy day that seemed so long ago. There was an unbearable lull.. but he was not looking at her. She didn't answer right away. please just let something.258 “Here. when he could bear the silence no longer (it had been less than ten seconds). marmoreal exterior. but she’d also expected it -." She was looking at him: he could feel it like black sunshine warming darkly his quivering skin. There was an unbearable silence then as she stood there holding it and he stood there realizing that he had just passed some point of no return and thousands of unsaid words rushed through the room in a deluge. please let her offer me a drink right now. thankfully. trembling (just a little. he didn’t think that it showed: he was glad that he was drunk and he was thirsty for another drink and he wanted to kiss and hold her) and drunk but still afraid but.. not panicking. burning.” he said. He felt young. She wondered if he knew that she was the one who’d first given it to him. Yet. Oh God I need a good stiff drink he thought to himself. His shoes..but finally she said: "Come sit down. although this excitement was not at all apparent on her stoned. Looking down at his shoes. a flood of fire all through his neck and head. would not raise his eyes to meet hers. “Was that from you?” he finally asked.it was like walking across carpet in your socks and then touching a doorknob: even when you know the spark is coming it makes you jump. and she was very anxious to find out if he was returning it blank or if he had written something on it (or perhaps even kissed it -. how she wanted it to be: he should have sixth-sensed the kiss with his poetic antennae or something).

dizzied in the funhouse of my mind. whom he’d read about all over the place and had been following for years in connection with the mass-gap hypothesis and the search for the Higgs Boson. invoking the vortex. But that really didn’t matter right now. his mind reeled: he fell to his knees before the porcelain altar. Television. He reached up blindly for the handle and flushed the toilet. and he began to sweat. He closed his eyes and lost himself temporarily in the noise of the plumbing and he felt that he was curled up in a . called out with his panicked heart: save me. talking about immanent disaster. looked down into the water and saw the ghost of his reflection looking back at him and a violence of hot wet fear surged up through him and he threw up on. She said something but Arthur didn’t hear it. it was very comfortable but his back and shoulders and the backs of legs felt immediately overheated. his ass most of all. Finnegan came back in. was on the t. into. the t. locked into. Hans Blitzen. He looked at. fast as sound itself he fled into the hall and to the bathroom: his stomach roiled. He could hear her unfolding the paper and he felt like he was falling.v.v. which made him feel self-conscious. and enjoyed the cool breeze created by the whorling water as it soothed his burning skin. screen. please oh please oh mighty magic box let me lose myself in you. I am too much with myself. She was reading it: In the visible You were the invisible: Indivisible Suddenly he had to vomit. And he lay there resting his head on the toilet seat like a hard pillow as beads of sweat formed fattened and fell from his face like fruit. which made him sweat. through his image. He wondered if she knew he'd been with Brit and if so did that mean he was a scumbag with no credibility and that his little eyeku was not only dishonest in her eyes but insulting as well? Terrified that she was going to hate him.259 He sat down uneasily in an easy chair. and his ass.

He looked at himself in the mirror: his face was watery and red. so that he got a good mouthful but avoided spilling any. and swished it around while he put the jug back under the sink and then he spit it out into the sink. he presumed. There was an eerie silence and he thought that he ought to get up and splash his face and rinse his mouth out but he did not. Buoyed by his fresh emptiness and the moved by the thrust of the music he felt ready for the night. he'd heard knocking before) were sitting there smoking a bowl when he came back in. Maya looked at him and he did not look away but into her eyes. She smiled as she arose and she came to him half-dancing in a sidewinding undulation and he looked into her eyes. Ruddery. he hoisted it up over his head and tilted it and his head just so. The music was loud and he did not speak. . He stayed there in the silence until he heard himself breathing. He beckoned her come-hither with his hand. They moved together to where they would have more room to move. He could feel the music surging through him. and he walked on down the hall.. And they (Maya. And the music was like a city on fire and a waterfall of stars and they danced entwined in a slow moan ecstasy and she took his head in her hands and she kissed him. given a second wind. and he felt himself being lifted up.. the one whom. and he got up and splashed his face with cold water.. and then he heard his heart beating. He slapped himself across the face a few times briskly and then he barked at his reflection like a dog and dried his face off with a fluffy black towel that smelled like powdered licorice. There was a ginormous jug of Listerine under the sink.The Jobbs – Finnegan must have brought the new Jobbs CD with him.260 giant ptyx hearing the secret mocean of all the World flowing around him and then as the noise ebbed out and the quiet flowed in he awakened back into the dream of reality. Finnegan and a woman that he did not know.. and muted by the walls and spaces between the bathroom and Maya’s living room he heard a knocking on the slidinglass door and then a series of voices followed by a brief lull and then. He wanted her in his arms pressed against his flesh so that he could count the rhythm of her blood. her tongue moist and slithering in the dark warmth of his mouth and she said into his ear you taste like the spring and he was glad and all the stars of . or maybe she’d downloaded it or something.

which he'd managed to remove most of rather easily through the right eyesocket after prying the eyeball loose with some careful combined levering involving a teaspoon and a scaling knife (which he also used to sever the nervewires that trailed off of the eye and back to the skull's dark interior). 51. And they danced. breathe it in and whisper it back out as secret songs to each other in the dark. He held her and he kissed her and everything disappeared around them so that it was only them and the sky and the darkness and the light and they danced. He hadn't eaten too much of her after the brains. something which he’d done before and which had yielded an exquisite sensual pleasure. and indeed this time it brought him to a climax in seconds. they just kept dancing. He kissed her and he could taste her and the music played in thrusts and throbs and the room rocked chaotic like a drunken boat and they pulled back to look in one another's eyes and outside the sky was blue and though it was daytime still the stars came pouring down like a benediction of diamonds and milk. damaging it very little.261 the universe poured down over them like a baptism in pure bluewhite fire. He took her head in his hands and her hair poured over and through his hands like a black river of night cascading down and he kissed her and she tasted like the ocean and for a moment he felt as though he was sure that he was going to die right then and there or wake up alone in bed lonely and longing after some cruel dream of impossible things. (like floating on the ocean . which was important because hed wanted to pop it in his mouth between his molars. But those things did not happen. The night was coming and they would welcome it with open arms. and bask in the warmth and that sweet floating feeling. after which he had to sit down for a while before continuing.

blood and brains. reborn. scooped and skinned along the back. torch the place and leave. This experience makes my entire life preceding it seem like merely a dream from which I have only now awakened. When he turned away from her butchered body (scalloped. She seemed tied up pretty good though. he told himself. But that would be later. achieving some measure of not only physical but also (more importantly) spiritual fulfillment. go back out into the Night and see what She has to offer. this is the realist that I have ever been.262 with the sunshine pouring down all over you) before removing most of her brains.. startled. engorged and intoxicated on flesh. He’d forgotten about her. properly).. First he would have a nap. He’d leave the rest to burn: he’d eaten his fill and performed his rituals for the time being and if he hadn’t exactly sown a soul-garden in his own inner darkness he’d at least satisfied the appetites that had been threatening to consume him and now. leave it all behind and start a new life. And the dark night was his mother and the fire was his sister and his lover. And dreamed: In a dark and fiery night he walked down a familiar but unknown road with a profound sense of physical substance. but he was out of sight somewhere in the dark unknown . ceremonially preparing them for ritual consumption and finally devouring them (slowly. presence. where he lay down and fell asleep almost immediately. After that he would wake up. And his father was not there but his presence was impending. I am definitely not dreaming. then get up. he could deal with her after his nap. inevitable. he felt drugged and drowsy and wanted nothing more than to find a place to lay his weary head and nap. He wandered stupidly in his stupor until he came to a couch. reality. maybe settle down and start a family. buttocks and legs) he saw the redhead girl sitting there and he jumped a little. having taken the sacrament to excess.

He threw his head back and howled again and his mouth came open so wide that both sets of his teeth faced straight up to the sky and with his eyes he could see his own heels.263 country behind the mountains. and he had never in his life or elsewhere felt a joy such as this. and he was overcome then by a sense of vibrating and exploding that was orgasmic. and she was a very hot red thing like the devil’s tongue coiled around him seething and writhing. . And. to finally leave behind for better or for worse. his jaw dislocated as when a snake swallows a rat. and he threw his head back and bellowed and howled madly terribly triumphantly into the night and his bellows fanned her fire and she flared up incandescent as they shook together like a rattlesnake’s tail uncoiling in a whorl. he could feel himself penetrating her being while she enveloped his. he danced madly with her. and after a moment of intense heat and vibration his skin fell down around him like a loose garment into a heap and then his organs muscles and bones followed and all fell in a wet heap on the ground and yet he felt as though he was still standing there somehow independent of his collapsed corpus and now he stood there bodiless and wreathed in writhing flame while his skin bones muscles organs and hair caught fire and he watched as the fire consumed them and then they were gone. a great enveloping bitch-serpent. and as he entered her she consumed him and he could feel himself unraveling in her madfiery flux and he was glad to be free at last from everything that had ever burdened or wearied him and it was like he was shedding his skin. entwined. as if drugged. and they spun pirouetting wildly like an incandescent dust-devil through the darkness.

where the door to the garage was.264 He looked up and tried to wave his hand in front of his face and he felt his arm moving and his fingers wiggling and he felt very much like he was holding his hand in front of his face and wiggling his fingers and yet he saw nought but fire and darkness and he could not understand what he might have been seeing with eyeless as he was and he did not know how without ears he heard them speaking but he heard them speaking to him. his mother and his lover. saying you’re one of us now. He walked to the kitchen. and he cried then he cried but what tears came from what ducts tucked into what sockets in what skull? He did not know but he cried and he was glad to be home and this was the realist thing that he had ever known and he was glad to be there with them and to be loved by them because he’d so rarely been loved in his life and he loved to be loved but he knew that his Father was coming from behind the mountains and he was glad for that in a way but he was also very afraid because there was something terrible about it that he could not name and then he awoke. He got up and rubbed the mocean sand out of his eyes. stopping at the refrigerator to see if there was anything worth taking before he burned everything. So he took it back through the door and up the steps into the kitchen. . you’re home. He felt renewed. down the steps and through the door into the garage where there was a gascan and he'd just known there would be a gascan (for God provides for what’s meant to be) and he found it quickly: it was fire engine red and made of metal and he picked it up and tilted it slowly one way and then the other and he felt the fluid flow back and forth and it felt about half-full (he was an optimist) which would be a gallon and a half of gas and that was plenty. everything is going to be alright.

lit a match and threw it on her. and he felt loved. and he smiled as he walked out the front door into the world. and he drank it all then and there. which he picked up by licking his forefinger and rubbing it over the residue. He smiled as he opened the baggie and portioned the powder out onto the counter and then he cut it up as fine as he could get it with the edge of the matchbook. Dusk descending unto dark. Some of it overflowed from the corners of his mouth dribbling and slithering down his neck and shoulders. took the matches and the gascan and walked into the dining room. then rubbing the forefinger all along his gums so that they became comfortably numb. and that was where he belonged.265 There was a bottle of vodka in the freezer. or just a trace. his bare chest and back. God provides for what’s meant to be. smiling. but he feared not his own disintegration for he knew that it would be his homecoming. and smiling he walked on down the road toward the plaza and he did not look back and so did not see the woman in flames burst forth from the . When he was done he took a pack of matches that he saw on the counter and seemed to be bulging with something so he opened it and in it he found a little baggie of cocaine. that in destroying him they would be giving him back to death. you’re home. he thought to himself. that was where he would make his home. brought it up to his nose and with a quick sniff inhaled the bump and then repeated the process a few more times until there was no more powder left on the counter. chaos and the night. He walked on down the road toward the plaza where the seething crowd agitatedly awaited his arrival so that they might tear him into ten thousand pieces with their hands and teeth. scooped a bump onto the cardboard corner of selfsame matchbook. she tried to stop it with her eyes but she could not and she burst into flame. From the east a great black cloud advanced and cast a pall over the city as slowly but surely it proceeded to devour the dimming sky. Funny how things keep recurring. there was about a half of a fifth left. into the warm and warming air as behind him the fire fed and spread. He took the vodka. and the snakes all over him throbbed and writhed as he swallowed. Now you could see thin tendrils of smoke coming up out of his ears slithering slyly skyward like snakes sneaking into heaven. He put the little baggie in his pocket. He poured the gasoline all over the screamy-eyed redhaired girl and then chanting in a language that she did not understand he stepped back. He walked away smiling and from some dark otherwhere he heard another her whisper: you’re one of us now.

The tingly tickle of long leaves of grass on his whiskers... and she screamed and wailed as she ran out of that house and into another house.266 house that he had made a pyre of her in although he did hear her wailing as she ran out into the street and then into a neighboring house. but he did not look back. what she does now is of little consequence. and as he walked he began to sing. The crows cawed back and forth among themselves and they drowned out the screams of the woman on fire and of those whose homes she set alight and if he’d looked back he would have seen a scene straight out of his dream. 52. a rite in a ritual that had already been performed. everything fire and darkness. thinking to himself that yes she was on fire but no she was not his sister and/nor his lover. trailing tattered behind him as he made his way towards the Real Thing. he walked on among the cawing crows and he left the women behind. He paid her little mind. she was just a step on a staircase.. setting it alight. and they wailed and they howled but it didn’t really matter because it wasn’t really real: none of this was really real. screaming like a banshee. . and a murder of crows attended to him and flew and walked all about him. not out .Prrrrrrrrr.. setting the house alight. in front of and behind and on either side and above him walking or flying and saying “all!” and one even landed on his shoulder and that made him smile. It was still yet to begin. no: all of this was detritus from anotherworldly dream. His life would soon be over. seeking solace but finding only more fire.. He went out a different way today. and the woman who lived there began screaming too.

pride. and young Ash had asked his mama Smokey what is the other half-around of death and Smokey said birth. but the “living” people always think that the dead are lifeless and it makes them very very sad. that if life moves in rounds then sleep is like a half-around and waking is the other half. and likewise death is a half-around just on a much bigger scale. so that when one of their loved ones leaves them to die they put the loved one’s name on a stone so that it will last forever. (stopping briefly to let a plastic grocery bag roll by like a tumbleweed in the wind). Sometimes he thought he could feel the dead people dreaming and he liked how it felt and was glad that they dreamed.267 through Jim Daniels' front yard like last time but back through Maya's yard (still warm and wet and steamy beneath his belly but drying in the evening heat) to the wall. across the street and through a vacant lot among snapple caps and wangly weeds and used condoms. This had puzzled young Ash but his mother explained to him that people had a very hard lot in life because – in addition to the difficulties inherent in being born into servitude (to cats. down the driveway. And he thought that if they dreamed then they certainly weren’t really dead just more like sleeping deeply. through a hole in a chainlink fence into another yard and on through that. as all humans are) – the lack of freedom. and also that some part of a thing lives on in its name. What is birth? he asked her. cigarette cellophanes and cigarette butts. and . For thousands of years cats had tried to teach people that death was just a way of sleeping deeply. and she told Ash to make sure to remember that and to understand that that is why they always act so crazy. leaning and curving his back along the neat-hewn edges of the stones and purring happily. When he was just a wee kitten his mother had told him that people think that stone lasts forever. down another driveway and across another street and now out towards the cemetery (not the one by the Java Hut but the one) by the woods. but Ash hadn’t understood. dignity etc. along the wall to a little cherry tree that he climbed up and hopped quickly down from over the wall into old man Harpster's yard on the other side. – they are the only things in the universe that are not born knowing that they are immortal. and he wandered in that cemetery that had been there for centuries. but Ash was glad that they were crazy and ignorant of their immortality because he loved having cool tombstones to rub up against in the warming weather in these sweet and purry early days of spring.

but not really cats but some aspect of cats in between being and not-being. water and glass. where things aren't really what they are but more like faint notions of themselves in between being and not-being. who like you once were germinating or gestating in their mother. beyond our paws' reach. out in the deep deep dark where things are not themselves but all mixed together in an ocean of shadow and nobody can see what they're doing or keep from slipping and sliding into and through each other so everything is just a watery darkness. little seeds of light in the darkness waiting to be born.you know you came out of me. so he had to ask her something and so he asked her what makes birth happen and where does birth go? And she said that she didn't know what makes birth happen but that birth makes everything else happen and it does not really come from anywhere but it is where things come from. and she told him that the place where things come from through birth and go back to through death is that otherworld that we see in mirrors. all sameness and swirl. He told his mother this and she sighed and smiling with her eyes she said that she'd just explained it to him and he said but no. like how the stars are beyond our paws' reach. He was puzzled and did not even know what to ask her. maybe occasionally observable but not touchable. as you did in yours. more propurrrly: it is through birth that things like kittens and stars come into the world but even though they've already been born yet still kittens and stars are waiting to be born. cat and not-cat. if you had I would have understood. and she told him its okay. or. don’t you? And of course he did know and always had known. or me -. Then she said that before birth there was love and darkness and after birth there will be love and light and that if birth does have a why then that why was love and where birth goes is into the world. but he was still very confused and he wanted to know: from where? From where do things like kittens come into the world through birth? he asked her. and she laughed gently as she remembered her days as a wee kitten and he grew impatient and upset and mewly and myowly. but he was very curious as kittens tend to be. and the only thing that keeps any form at all in there are souls. but back then he hadn't known that he’d always known and so instead of understanding he felt only compounded confusion. mama. and like how the stars are cats. there was still one way that she could teach him what birth was but that it would take a long time and require much patience of . from inside my body. you didn't. and they are like purry purry stars in that blurry blurry night.268 she said birth is how and why you and I are here. and he asked her: am I birth right now? and laughing gently she said: yes and no.

269 him. or not the moon but some translucid phantom likeness of the moon that he did not know the nature of. you should know about things like death and birth and the meaning of dreams and so you should go and watch the moon every night for twenty-eight nights and if after that you still don't get it then keep watching for fifty-six nights and by that time you will have come to understand the purrydark magic of the mystery thing called birth which is our sacred bond and which comes rising out of the yawning darkness like a dawning day again and again and again. she added. . and he kept looking and the moon was thin and it got fatter and fatter until it was very big and fat and round and bright like a. and since this is so you should know of the magic mystery of things. and he got closer and closer but it seemed like every time the answer was about to dawn on him the moon set and the sun rose. reminded him of how he sees himself in glass while waiting to go out into the world and also sees through the glass and through his self in the glass and so night after night after night after night after night he tried to see through the moon and to see through the night to the world behind. every night. and after twenty-eight days he did not know if he understood or not and so he went and asked his mother. night after night after night and all that he could make of the moon was that it was a giant cat's eye opening and closing as it waxed and waned. it would be worth it for you. because you have a very big soul. She told him: if you don't know whether you know or not. and after a while he began to lose faith. then that means that you don't know and that you must watch the moon for fifty-six nights now. and he was very puzzled and disappointed but he did as she'd told him and night after night he watched the moon and sometimes he even saw it during the day. real or dream(? cat folly? cat fancy? catfoolery?) but which meant something to him. just be patient and do not let yourself get all frisky or nippy or growly.. as happens with cats born small and weak of body.. and at first he thought that he understood but then he realized that he did not. just wait and watch and watch and watch and wait. He did as she told him. But. watching the moon every night. but this is not birth he thought to himself except for that maybe it is in some other kind of way than he'd thought things could be. little Ash. beyond. but still he watched.

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but it would not show itself. his curiosity regarding birth had grown and grown (even when he didn't know it was germinating..271 . . And his head grew heavy holding it as he had all that time during those days and it reminded him of when he was very young and could never hold his head up straight.and one night after shrinking down again. night after night. He was glad that he had grown since then and he wondered how much he had grown in his entire life. to maybe see through to where they came from but he could not. but his mother had told him that he had to look at the moon every night to understand and he wanted so badly to understand but he could not look at the moon if there was no moon there and it got to the point where he became downright growly with anger and impatience but there was nothing he could do and all that night he stayed up staring at the sky and pondering the absence of the moon. but he could definitely feel it in a shadowy riddling cat's logic kind of way like how he knew that Smokey was his mother and that she had made him somehow and he had been inside her in the dark warmth of her curled up like sleeping sitting in his special place in her and at some point he must have been only her and not himself and but then at some point after that he must have been himself and not her and at some point he'd come out of her warm wet purry inner darkness through birth and into the world and . he could feel it touching him. and he was very vexed because he'd put so much time into watching the moon and with every night that had passed. and he tried hard then to see through the stars to what was special about the places where they sat. more like the wind – he could feel it but he could not show it to anyone. and yet.. that was something that he understood because he had his special places too.. He wondered if it had died.. but not in a definite way. The stars had been very bright in the moon's absence and seemed to all have their own special places to sit.. He tried to remember back as far as he could but at some point in his childhood everything receded into an absolute darkness and there was nothing more to remember and that seemed to mean something (he felt a quick whisker tickle in his mind) in relation to the moon.yet he felt that he knew. it played around him teasing like the wind. gestating in the shadows inside him) so that now he really needed to know what birth was.. but he could not get his claws into it. it disappeared altogether.

and the night after the night with no moon he looked up to the sky and he watched the sky all night hoping for the moon to appear but it did not and again around dawn of the next day he lay down his heavy head and slept.. But it didn’t last forever. oh and the despair was the worst thing of all. He cried many tears during that time and he rowled up at the blackness of the sky raaoouuuuul! his plangent plaint. but now with the moon dead that was impossible. and he was sad and he did not know what to do. and the despair. But she laughed gently and she licked his tears away and purring she told him that it was okay and not to give up and he told her that he could not go on anymore and she told him laughing gently yes you can go on so go on. none of which he remembered much of in any way except insofar as he had had them. . and his whole body shuddered with his cry of anguish. and when he awoke he was very confused (as sometimes happens after a deep sleep) and did not know where he was or what time of day it was... And all that day he slept very deeply in a darkness without dreams. And the next night there was no moon again. the sadness and the rage. the loss of innocence. it was dusk and the world was in a penumbra of twilight. He was afraid that the moon had died and he was sad for the moon and also for himself because he was supposed to have been learning what birth was from the moon and satisfy the yearning in his soul. even though it was getting progressively darker... he was so confused that he thought that it was . and he did not give up. and when he woke up later he went to his mother and told her of his problem and how he was afraid that the moon had died and he began to weep. and after he had rowled and rowled himself almost inside out he fell to the ground completely enervated after all of the emotional exhaustion.. even though he was sure it wouldn’t do any good.272 all the wind and all the light. but.he fell asleep around dawn and he had many dreams. and in his confusion he thought that it was dawn.

she said. like a rhythm to a music. water and glass. She was always very protective of him and he liked to be loved like that. You do. without looking. She smiled upon him and licked him between his ears and down the back of his neck. for he himself understood very little of his own understanding.. You have given birth to the cat of yourself out of your own kittenhood and the darkness within has blossomed like the garden of stars in the sky. and he said oh no. You don't need me to be your mother now because you have your own mamacat nature inside of you. he had given up on the moon. and feeling that he knew now that although he could not say how or why. As time went on he ended . and he did not expect to see the moon. but I’m quite certain that I understand. Very good. but as he grew older he also developed a taste for adventure. Yes. or when he looked up at the moon or the starry sky) had loved him. I couldn’t explain it to you or anyone else. The next day Maya came and took him away and he began his new life. a love of freedom and a need to explore the great wide world in all its mystery and variety and so he was always sneaking out to seek new adventures. but she didn't really know if he truly did understand or was merely seeking her approval and so.. This would be the last time for that kind of thing and they both knew it and they both purred and cried a little. shedding tears of joy and sadness and some other feeling too of which all cats are aware but which no cat can name. and now you are ready to go out into the world. but definitely there. just a slender silvery sliver up there in the infinite dark. and he felt something happen inside of himself that was like purring or a heartbeat but it was not purring or a heartbeat but it was very much like them. yet he knew that he knew and he understood that he understood and he felt very close to his mama now and he went running to see her and found her and told her I understand now mama. he spied it by accident. You are your own cat now. grinning cat-sly she said oh really? Can you tell me about it? Explain it to me. But then. I understand. You will be always small in stature but possessed of a large and generous soul. how Smokey (whom he thought he would never see again but whom he often spoke to in dreams and reveries and sometimes caught a faint glimpse of in mirrors.273 getting lighter and he did not realize that it was night until it was very dark out and all of the stars were twinkling in the deep black sky. nor would he be able to explain this thing to anyone if they’d asked. that would be impossible.

his heart pounding in his chest. up to the top. He knew then that it would strike – he felt an urgent tingling in his whiskers – so he leapt off the tombstone just as it went for him..274 up doing it a lot. Usually he liked snakes. although there were occasional brushes with danger. He took some deep breaths and let himself settle down. especially to eat. like a little black lightning bolt striking zzzzzap! He was running now and the serpent lay there vexed with its head resting on the cool tombstone. and only then did he rest. but this snake was big enough to eat him. It came right up to him and he hopped up on top of a tombstone and from that vantage regarded the serpent warily. and most of his adventures were very innocent.. very footloose and fancy-free. Down below him he saw the city and it was burning in places now and he could smell the city burning and he did not like it. It gave him an inner squirming that he did not like at all. and he did not see how quickly it had moved when it did. And there were sirens yowling like hurt cats in the night. The hair on the back of his neck prickled up and he hissed. where he was brought out of his reverie by a long dark snake that came a-slithering through the grass. Or this very day in the graveyard. as with the dog or the man in the house. As he looked around he saw troubling things and became worried. The snake's hiss was much thinner. and he stayed very still there as the world slowly grew quiet and calm around him. more metallic. He felt his inner cat-calm returning. He hissed again. But he did not stay calm long. He did not look back – he ran as fast as he could and climbed the highest tree he could find. flicking its tongue in the air and examining him with a cool curiosity. The snake curled into a loose coil in front of the tombstone and stood up. The sun was almost all the way down behind the hills in the distance to the west. The snake hissed back. crouched into a position from which he could quickly jump or strike if either became necessary. and when he looked upward he saw in the east a giant cloud like a stormcloud but not storming. so very grumblylooking but not grumbling as clouds like that tend to but very .

though it lay there almost directly in his path. dazed and dizzy. tearing the snake's eye out and shredding the left half of its face and at the same time breaking two of Ash's claws and sending him spinning through the air and tumbling over the grassy ground until he came to a stop and looked about himself. . until eventually he got a better hold on things. Chris. and he thought that if they were going out for a walk they must not have known what dangers were lurking. It reared up out of the pile of brush and Ash leapt up and over it. so he hurried back down and ran homeward as fast as his paws would carry him. and in pulling back it pulled Ash along with it by his claws until they broke free. stuck out his paw and let his claws out and he felt the spirit of Sekhmet in him as the snake went to strike and it moved so quickly and powerfully into his claws that it caused much more damage to itself than Ash could have just scratching it. not only afraid for himself but for Maya too. hooking into the great snake's left eye and the side of it's face. as the world seemed to swim without order for a long second. and he saw the snake disappearing back into the brushpile in retreat. He saw the snake again on the way.275 silent and the silence was much more terrible than any grumbling or growling could have been. who was lagging rather far behind – going over the wall in the other back corner of the back yard to the path that went down the hill and along the river. He ran back down the tree as fast as he could. back out across streets and through yards and up over the wall in one mighty leap back into Maya’s yard where he saw them – Maya and another woman and three men. and it hissed and reeled wildly in pain. then continued on his way. 53. one of them. through the tombstones in the dusking twilight. running as fast as his paws would carry him. to watch over them. and he threw his head back and let out a long yowl of triumph. so he followed them. He did not break stride as he approached it. but this time he was not afraid.

. What the fuckza psychopomp then?" "I dunno." "No You dinnint." "Yuh huh I did..276 Everywhere the smell of smoke. Like black snakes.) ".." ." "Calm down – it's only rock n roll. I wanna divorce. And it's not 'cycle pump' it's psychopomp." "What the hellza cyclepump got to do with all them fuckin snakes.." "You'll never get ridda me." "Ohhhhh.. Till death do us part." (dawning.. You always get the words to songs mixed up. The voice said through the radio: “You can take the rest of the day off after that double shift of The Jobbs that we managed to work in there with "Psychopomp Stomp" leading into "Ever So Werlight.. Screams on the wind. Sounds like Billy Idol.I remember that shirt. heh heh. From the eighties. jackass." "I knew it." "Whaddaya mean?" "I think Billy Idol's a psychopomp. It's 'cause he wears that shirt made of like black tubes in that video. The city is burning.

What the hellz goin on anyway? Do you smell smoke?" "I think that's my liver. began shouting insults and making various obscene gestures at them.. hee hee." "I don't even care anymore.277 "Nah.. I know what I'm doin.. "Watch out!" Paz yelled." "You're fuckin drunk. "Jesus fuck." "Be careful. It's not like I fuh – I mean it's not like I'm drunk as you are you fuckin lush. Then he shook his fist out the window at the pedestrians and shouted: "Hey! Watch where you're going you miscreants!" Whereupon the pedestrians. where are all these people coming from?" he slurred furiously." A group of pedestrians walked out into the street. Listen. So psychopomp means people who wear those black tubey shirts with the ribs. don't get your tampon all inna knot. You might hit someone. . thank God. There's all these people out wandering around. Logan veered to avoid the people." "Well I'm not the one driving. and they were arranged like ribs and shit. you're swerving all over the road." "Yeah.. who were also quite drunk. But I guess tubes and snakes are kinda the same." "Said the prostie to the hooer. black tubes.

git along now little dawgies." "Whatever. Chicano. They got out of the car and already the angry mob was almost upon them." "Okey doke. shows over. Let's just get out and get walkin. "I thought we were going to the plaza." Paz said. "We need more booze." and laughing inanely. I'm giving you a choice. Other groups that had been roaming the streets (there were a lot of them) stopped to watch and see what would happen. "Let's just park here and walk to the station. I do believe they mean to clobber us." Then. all together in ." This did not seem to deter the angry mob. then said it again. nor disperse the onlookers. some made catcalls." he said. "But watch out for this angry mob coming our way." Logan said as they coasted slowly into a tree. letting his lips blop and burble: "clobber." The pedestrians were approaching the car now. Or keep moving. "There's people out here all over the place. eliciting laughter from other watchers.. the most threatening-looking ones. both around six and a half feet tall." Logan said floppily. although two of them. mostly young males. laughing at the rubberiness of the word. Paz took out his flask and took a sip. Logan summoned up his Cop Voice and said: "Hold it right there. to the various crowds of onlookers he shouted: "Nothin to see here folks. Some of them were pretty big and toughlooking. They looked to be about twenty in number. but away from us instead of towards us. Some whistled.278 "What the fuck are you doing? Slow down you jackass!" Paz yelled at him. coming to a stop with a dull blunk sound." "Clobber.. They stood close now. were big Indians.

" and took out his gun. That would be the evil one.279 a pack of twenty like cigarettes. Said: "We're drunk angry cops with guns and we really don't like you. said: "Yeah. "So do us a favor and start somethin." the two Indians said at the same time." Nobody knew what exactly a mook was. although one wore an eyepatch." one of the mob said." Paz said to Logan out of the side of his mouth. taking out his gun. In fact. you're making us angry. The mob backed off slowly. then laughed again: "What?" "I told you bro. One of them spit on the ground angrily. and it seemed like something might explode soon." Paz took his cue. eventually turning around and going back on their way to wherever they'd been going before the incident had taken place. and then to the mob out of the front of his mouth said: "Everybody stay nice and easy. seething with potential energy. whenever yer ready. "Then we'll walk away. You fuckin mooks." "We hate cops. like there was a secret timebomb ticking somewhere. "This is ridiculous. "I think we'll kick your ass first. keep it cool and orderly – we’re policemen." Logan said. giving the drunken detectives carcinogen looks." Logan said. like in the movies. . Knuckles were heard cracking. They were identical twins." "Yeah. Pretty please." "What?" Logan laughed. A few of them took out knives. Then said: "Well we don't much like you all either. standing in place and yet moving at the same time. but they knew it wasn't good.

Where else would everyone be going?" "I dunno. "Well I guess we're going too.where were we goin?" "Let's go this way. As they walked they kept seeing groups of people. Drunk as they were they did not even notice when one of the groups of pedestrians that had stopped to watch the standoff got together and turned their (it was Logan's really) car over and set it on fire. then let out a loud belch." Paz said." Logan said. Paz asked Logan: "Is everyone going to the plaza?" "I dunno. Hell?" "Could be. probably. most of them noisy and agitated. following him. walking in the general direction of the plaza. Maybe there's a fair or something. "Hell yeeeah. I mean it's possible." Logan said." Logan said." . "Now then -. and walked off in a direction. but the plaza’s a strong statistical favorite. "Alright." Paz said." "Is there like some kind of event going on or something?" "Beats me. But they did not and would never know.280 "That was fun.

" he said to Logan. not fairs." "Yeah. Almost like he swallowed a star... "Free beer. There were crows all around. He seemed very familiar." Paz said dreamily. but Paz could not remember where from: he was tall for a Mexican (which Paz was pretty sure he was) with broad shoulders. chanting slowly and dreamily like a mantra. Clowns are terrifying. Logan drifted off into a t. This time Logan joined in. and wearing very dark sunglasses even though it was night out (and a very dark night at that. And then said it again. however. beer commercial daydream of sunshine." they said." "Me too.) and he was smiling and something in his teeth reflected the light from a streetlamp briefly but then winked out. and then he was smiling and Paz didn't know where he knew him from but he knew that he knew him from somewhere. Paz did... the absence of bikinis and a dog who could play darts. like Homer Simpson." "You got that right my friend. tattoos of rattlesnakes all over his bare shoulders and torso. I hope there's no clowns. and became so lost in his dream that he did not even notice the man or angel who was walking (stalking) up behind them. Maybe they'll have free beer. "Look behind us. he'd thought he heard something.281 "Yeah." "Yeah. . he looked back over his shoulder and he saw him walking quickly towards them.v. free beer. But clowns are in circuses. I guess so. bikinis. I like fairs better. They both turned around.

He crouched down and took Paz's gun from Paz's dead hand. and one young man stood there staring. not quickly but surely. running off in all directions screaming into the night. wrenching it free with a twisting motion. Logan stood there staring stupidly.282 "Wait—" And as Logan raised his gun (they were both still holding their guns). It seemed almost solid. Many people had seen it happen and almost everyone had fled immediately. . It died down and Logan stood there in a strange way so that he seemed hung on invisible wires and for a long brief moment he swayed like an underwater plant and then the other blew gently into his eyesocket as if to snuff a candle and Logan fell dead. frozen like a deer in headlights. and he clicked the safety off. He walked up to the young man and he shot him in the face and then he turned around and headed on his way now smiling and the streets all about were empty save for a murder of crows and the angel and his dead. Everywhere the smell of smoke. Screams on the wind. he made his way toward the plaza. 54. the crows however did not scatter but began to feed on the dead. Gabriel simply grabbed it out of his hand. The city is burning. one enormous unbroken monolithic cloud like an ocean drowning the sky. A terrifying oneness. leveled the gun at Paz's face and shot him through the eye. Smiling. Part of his head went out the back and he fell crumpling into a dead heap in the street. He opened his mouth to speak but nothing came out and Gabriel shot him too through the eyeball and blood gushed out in a gout.

or know anything. A big black Hell where Heaven had been like a vast gaping maw poised to swallow the city entire. Nothingness. Those who looked skyward saw naught but deepening dark: the moon smothered.... but to run. burn and wail (and hopefully to die or find solace someotherhow): that is who she is now. fanning the fires so that they flared and flew like dancing demons through the night from house to house and tree to tree. The Wailing Woman’s cries are like fingernails on chalkboards in their bones. what she is. holding in its silence ten million tears uncried and all the endless nightmares of the long sleep to come. She no longer feels any pain. poets.283 A wrong ocean in whose sky lay a desert. and the people flee when they hear her. fools. and so only a few are home when she . A great wind blew. lost in the violent agon of their great vernal metamorphosis among the fire and the shadows and the madness below. spreading the blaze that the Nameless One lit. the stars snuffed: Nothing. she does not feel anything. they run crying from their homes. They don’t know what they’ve done to deserve such punishment (as if this were some act of justice or judgment) and they go to ask their neighbor but their neighbors aren’t there – most have already vacated their homes to congregate in the plaza and unwittingly await the arrival of someone whose name they do not know but whose arrival will serve to initiate the proceedings (though they know not what the proceedings are. exactly. saints. villains. a little city that does not know what it has done to invite or invoke or incite this blotting of the heavens. A stormcloud without storm. gloomy-brooding above our heroes. a little chain of mountains named after a blood sacrifice. a wind enormous as the breathing of the world conjuring immense and invisible whispers out of the high pines and down the mountainsides burying the little city in avalanches of indecipherable secrets.. the whole wayward congregation of souls in flux. or how they are supposed to proceed).

. and finally they will address the fire and the darkness and they will tame the hell that has been visited upon their little city. for themselves and their children and their children's children. sluggishly like zombies. seemingly aimless but secretly coalescing into a flock and making their mindless winding way to the plaza knowing neither why nor whither they go. their hope and their love. just going. the congregation of the conflagration has assembled and the service will be held. epiphany. lost. Soon almost all the townsfolk are there. their holiness and their civility. (on a pilgrimage to a place where they know without knowing that a congregation awaits them praying and laughing and gnashing their teeth. Revolutions. the rites performed and the sacrament taken. 55. revolution. their present and their future. . or at least try. broken words and fractured fragments. revelation. and there will be acts of hierophany. recognition: an agreement forged in this dark furnace. so that they might have their lives back. and those few who remain run out of their houses and into the streets.284 comes screaming with her light and her heat.. seeking impossible answers from others in others' answerless seeking eyes. The congregation of the conflagration will soon be assembled and the service will be held and the sacrament taken and they are all going there walking dead on their way to be reborn. and this they all know but don’t know that they know. shuffling aimlessly about like some sad new species of the undead. looking at their houses or each other. But they will. muttering and mumbling crumbling nonsense to themselves. Yet slowly and without knowing they correspond in a mindless agreement. a new song out of the silence sung to the rhythm of the many wheels come to this rarest of conjunctions in their turning here in the meek little City of Faith.

” “Ahhh but I love the gloaming hour." Ananda said.” Then. They too held hands. though now he was not quite drunk anymore in the technical sense but with an inner music that flowed and danced in him. Ananda was the friend who had come over when Arthur was sick in the bathroom. The only one among them who could see well in the gloom was Ash.285 It was hard to see anything but you could hear the river murmuring unknowable things in the darkness to the right. Then sang: “Where oh where did the daylight go?” lilting through the syllables.” “Call me Finnegan. amused. to Ananda: “Be careful here lass. Ananda. without the secret underlying dread) in Finnegan’s voice. they (being only human) would have gotten all worried about him and got caught up trying to help him rather than letting him help them. They didn’t event know that he was there – if they had. “’Twas nary a minute this last one don’t ya know. Professor?” he called up ahead to Arthur." "I will. Arthur was glad to hear a note of happiness (uncontrived. “But the night did come quick didn’t it?” He said. “And it got cloudy all of the sudden so it cut the gloaming hour short. He and Ananda had really hit it off. “Jamie’s guiding me. That was good. but that meant little. ‘Tis a shame is what it is.) Fortunately some of them knew the way even in the darkness and could lead the others. “What do you reckon happened to the day. "I can't believe it got so dark so fast. who was up front with Maya. (Saying perhaps that the world is a murmuring and unknowable thing flowing through some greater darkness and expressing it with a simplicity so pure as to be unnoticeable. there’s a snaky little bend in the path here." Maya said.” Finnegan brogued.” . lass.” Finnegan mock-mused. "Be careful. “We got drunk!” Arthur proclaimed drunkenly.

He saw one of them turn and look directly into his eyes (Arthur. Ash waited there very still as they went on. “Oi’ve been walkin this path since Oi was kneehigh to a leprechaun. having caught a brief glimpse of Ash's cateyes gleaming) but whoever it was did not say or do anything. Maya hadn’t known he(Chris)’d been out front. then called back to Finnegan: “Me too. did you hear that?” “Hear what?” Finnegan said. “Buh – wait – shhh. He didn't seem to be part of the group. “Oi know it like the back o’ me hand. Neither Finnegan nor Arthur had said anything about him . who elbowed him playfully in the ribs. Just a little rustling.286 “I’m glad you know what you’re doing.” Finnegan lilted. He was about to get on the path and tail them at a safe distance when he noticed Chris straggling behind. “Famous last words.” “Maybe we have. until they were a good ways ahead of him.” Arthur said to Maya up ahead. She squeezed his hand.” Maya said. Ash stayed very still.” Ananda said.” Finnegan said. A varmint or a critter or something.” “And he knows his palm better than the both of em. I’m surprised we never met each other before just recently.” Noticing that he'd (almost) been noticed. Then after a couple of moments of silence Maya said: “Nothing.” Arthur said to Maya. “Maybe.

drunk and stoned and falling in love as they were. 55. then everyone who hears the people who'd seen it laughing laugh along with them. Even "dead" people had auras. hateful embrace through the crowd and out of the main room in the front and into the back poolroom in a cloud of sawdust and salty language. rather. an androgyne on a blind date with a hermaphrodite: both feel as though they've been ripped off – a fight ensues and the two of them end up whirlwind-waltzing in a feral.287 to anyone. would not. mutant-type outlanders blown in on the wind from the vast desert waste. Ash wondered why he had no aura about him. accept that notion. she hadn't noticed him there in the truck but she had wondered where he was. nor had Ananda. that Chris had no aura. although she hadn't bothered to ask anyone. And having been rendered something of a phantom of himself by the day. because it was perhaps the color of water. he came to the conclusion that he had one around him but it was not discernable because it blended in with its surroundings. pulls them apart and then slams them back together again and they collapse into a heap on the floor. or the night. And no-one noticed him following them. or silence. or what his truck was doing out front. Everyone who sees this laughs. And so he could not. In the poolroom a man named Blister grabs both of them. walking tattoos with humans hidden in them like souls in bodies. he didn't think it was possible. not . The Mirage is full of all kinds of people and people-like creatures: bikers and their chicks. who had parked behind his truck in the street. He'd never seen a human without an aura. ciphers and lifers. he'd made very little sound as he followed them. Or seemed not to.

had been meaning to turn down the volume on all of the channels but one so that they could get a better idea of what was going on." Red said.288 really knowing why.." "Sure thing Granny. One channel had a graphic display that said "City on Fire" in orange and red letters that changed from red to orange and back and forth in an emulation of real fire burning.'s and then put them down and picked up another remote and turned up the . The man stalked back and forth glaring and glowering with mansonesque wild eyes occasionally lifting the microphone to his mouth to say something. the bartender. laughter's kind of a default at the Mirage. And get me another double bourbon. After that brief distraction everyone went back to doing what they'd been doing: watching t.v. the actor.v. Red then picked up three different remote controls and used them to mute the other five t. "Turn it up nice and loud. "before my gums get dry. live via satellite. One of the other channels had a ground-level view and was showing a man on stage in the plaza talking to a huge seething crowd.v.” who said he kept seeing people running around in flames.. or "Sloth in the Sky. pouring Granny yet another tumbler of Wild Turkey. but it was hard to tell what he was saying because the other newspeople on the other news channels were talking too. He looked like Randall “Tex” Cobb." Granny said." said a big badass biker dude they called Mad Henry. There were six t. "Hey Red – turn down everything except the crazy guy on the stage in the plaza.'s in the main room and each one was tuned to a different news channel but all the news channels were running the same story: all hell breaking loose in the City of Faith. but nobody really needs much of a reason. but he couldn’t decide which ones to turn down and which one to leave turned up. They were showing helicopter footage of the city burning with commentary by Slothrop Frye. my hearing's not so hot. which she promptly grabbed and proceeded to wet her gums with. That and violence. Red.

In fact. replied: "I know I'm having trouble making sense. but then continued: "And with the night have come riots and fires and the murder of two off-duty policemen." And then she stood up from her seat. Jim. her eyes now giving the impression that she was about to burst into a flash of light. Dianne.. I loved the changes. Before anyone could lose interest though the image on the screen changed and they were back in the news studio with an anchorman with a perfect jaw and an anchorwoman with disturbingly bright eyes. she of the disturbingly bright eyes.v. The anchorman said: "Something very unusual going on in the City of Faith in New Mexico. art galleries." and smiled at the camera “mindlessly. don't you think Dianne?" (struggling with the last part because he hadn't wanted to go back to Dianne again – she seemed to have gone a little loony – but like many anchormen he was so instinctively thoughtlessly obedient he'd been unable to think of any way to deviate from the teleprompter. he was obviously flustered for a second.." Diane chirped. It's always tough to watch a nice place like the City of Faith disintegrate into lawlessness. Jim.” eyes aglow. "Chaos is my element. . Anchorman Jim. It began with a terrorist attack early this morning at the public library. has erupted into chaos and violence. with the crazy man stalking the stage. nervous though and not mirthful.) "I absolutely love it. usually known for it's easy-going atmosphere. where the townspeople all ended up gathering over the course of the day to witness the ruin for themselves and to mourn the tragedy and come together as a community in an attempt to somehow make sense of this terrible disaster. furrowed his brow briefly and then turned back to the camera with a hint of a smirk. he of the perfect jaw (not to mention that pure bright whiteness of teeth) gave her a wary look. which I can't imagine would be very easy.289 volume on the t. but it was mostly crowd sounds as the man strode back and forth stage left to stage right and back again." To which Dianne. as the panicked citizens of this small city. I can't seem to make any sense at all. I was recently in the city of faith – hi Chris! – and to be honest. historic churches and European-style cafes.

Everybody saddle up and let's all go to town!" To which the crowd replied even more resoundingly with mad enthusiasm: "YEA!" And everyone began milling about. She raised her glass and said: "Hear hear.290 Anchorman Jim was shocked." And then someone stood up and said: "We should go to the city and check it out!" To which the crowd replied with a resounding "YEA!" And Mad Henry stood up on the bar and sad: "Alright then. bound. You never know if someone you're talking to is his or her true self or the dread Morphoplasm. She had become a Chinese dragon and flown out of the studio and up into the sky. for the City of Faith. a guttural. "That was fucking awesome!" Mad Henry yelled with boyish enthusiasm. "Fuckin A right. and everyone in the Mirage. who in years to come would become a legendary hero of outsiders everywhere. Jim. "What the fuck!" anchorman Jim screamed. What a day this was turning out to be. with everyone clinking their glasses and making toasts to the Morphoplasm. "Wha—" Cutting him off she said: "But you have to be careful. "D-da-duh-digh-Dianne. "What –" but he could not even yell at her – she was not there. presumably." he stammered. some lingering a little to finish their drinks and some going to the . erupted into a great roar of laughter and jollity. primitive sound. who had grown unusually quiet as the the exchange grew increasingly strange." "Dianne!" Anchorman Jim yelled. The city has really changed." said Granny.

" Mad Henry said. and almost went to whack him with her cane. and it made her worried." she said. "I thought you meant something else. once I set you down on my hog --" "What!?!" she cried. "Well. They were resting along her chest and down her legs. Spiderhobbling madly among them Granny did not know what to do. where to go." Mad Henry said. Fortunately she'd made a friend in Mad Henry. "Hey!" she said at first. "You got both canes?" "Yes I have. which she had clamped around them just to be safe. She was just drunk and adrift in this stormy sea." . He held her in front of himself as a groom carries a bride across the threshold as he made his way through the crowd. once I get you on my bike. laughing. or anything. "Hang on.291 bathroom before leaving." "Naw. with a finesse surprising in someone so big drunk and hairy. she said: "Hey!" in a more cordial and less reprimanding tone than she'd used the first time. but then. recognizing him. Granny. though not overly so: she was far too drunk for that. "My bike." "Oh. aghast. who scooped her up off of the floor quickly but gently." she said. "I'm sayin once I get you on my bike I'm going to tie your canes to my saddlebags in a way that'll make em safe and easy to travel with.

He looked out over the land. Gas your hog headlong into whatever thing might lurk in the darkness that lay before you. followed the road with his eyes. And don't forget to laugh. "Now then – madam. he tied them to the seat cushion.. where he gently set her down." he chortled. Naw. Instead of tying them to the saddlebags as he'd originally planned." then let out a sigh of relief." he said. who'd once told him: "the best thing to do when faced with some great and fearful thing is to ride right in. which had some metal rings on it that he could run a strap of nylon through on both sides at the front and back and so he tied the canes down tight one to a side." she said. Then he started up the bike. He'd seen much darkness in his life but this was pretty deep. Ride into the darkness. "Here we go. But he remembered then the words of his father. if you would please be so kind as to hand me your canes. That would be just fine then. And the thing that awaited them might be far worse by the time they got there. Darkness. Mad Henry started laughing when they left the .292 "Oh. So that's just what he did." "Famous last words." "Certainly sir. that is. Then he got on the bike and said: "Okay. Hold on tight and tell me when you're ready to go. "Well. Mad Henry." Granny said. Mad Henry Sr. handing him the canes. where his motorcycle was. we're about ready to tear ass. He carried her through the milling crowd and out the front door (turning sideways as he carried her through) and into the parking lot. not forget to laugh. Granny." And she wrapped her arms around and got a good hold of him and said: "I'm ready.

And he laughed. which he'd only ever read because a woman made him read this one book about Hell. All that he could remember of it was one little phrase. He could tell that they were nearing the city when he saw the great blaze in the near distance. . you who enter here. a pack of men women semi-humans and animals on motorcycles and in trucks. and he recited it to himself now because it felt so right: Abandon all hope.293 parking lot and he didn't stop laughing the whole ride in. And he remembered then the only words he'd ever memorized from the works of great literature. Behind them was everyone else...

"although I guess I am kind of a reaper. but I think of myself more as a shepherd. By me anyway. Am I dead? Or am I like. He didn't think it was all that strange that Death was actually some guy in a cloak who rode a motorcycle. That's been known to happen." so that even if you have seen something real your craziness discredits you." Bobby didn't really understand what Death was talking about but he nodded because he didn't want to seem stupid. You can just call me Death. I mean you're talking to me right here." "Die?" Death finished for him. because I see myself as a guide for lost souls who are helpless without me. "'The Grim Reaper' 's just a nickname. but he wondered why he'd been able to see him. Death had acted surprised when he'd first noticed that Bobby was looking at him (although after that he'd been very cordial). It was nice just having someone to talk to to get his mind off of Celia and the limes (or lack thereof). though. they're like vestigial symbols whose meanings have long been forgotten. People like that sometimes get to see things that are hidden from the sight of others because it's an effective way of keeping it hidden from the population at large – see. and furthermore. about to. There was something puzzling him though: he didn't know why he could see Death. so he had to ask: "How come I can see you? I mean.." Death said. if one of you crazy marginalized types comes back from the desert talking about how you've talked to Death. then people just say "ah that's just some crazy guy talkin his crazy old bullshit. They have no practical purpose. the tip glowed and faded. puffing on a cigarette. if a “normal” person manages to witness some part of this world .294 56. who obviously is real. like a farmer harvesting a crop. Plus you're half-crazy and you stink of booze. laughing. "Probably somethin happened to you going through the Prophet Margin. as we both know. that's what my friends all call me.. And I mean the sword and the scythe are just part of the uniform. people can't usually see you.

“To be honest I’m having trouble following some of the stuff you’re talking about." Death said. you really are more like a shepherd than a reaper.. because we move in the same circles. I’m not that smart really." Death said. I mean I guess I’m streetsmart but I’m not booksmart. I don't really have to know why anything happens. "You know. throw you in with the crazies. "But I mean it's all really just my own personal theory." Bobby said." "Well. "I think I just got tagged the reaper because of the Other One. "Yes. reap the whirlwind." "Yeah.295 or another that is meant to be hidden. because if you tell anyone they will just marginalize you. so that our names sound good together. If you’re not human I mean." Bobby said. just not at the same time. I just do my job. I’ve never met her." Death continued. and we’re always going the same places. The Eversower. not paying Bobby any heed.you know.” Bobby said." "And I'm a lost soul.’” “I guess. which is necessary if I am to guide them. which is funny." "Yeah. it doesn't matter. It's really rather amusing.” . that second one makes sense I guess. But anyway she’s called the Eversower and sowing and reaping go together nicely -. like as in ‘sow the wind." "Buh—" "Or. "I'm glad I could clear that up. "a simpler way of explaining it might be that I'm a shepherd of lost souls and only lost souls can see me." "Good.." Death said.

” Bobby said. They hadn’t been able to figure out what was wrong with it and after trying everything they could think of they’d taken a long break to drink whiskey.296 “Don’t worry about it.” “Oh. “That’s just how I like it. Bobby thought to himself. I sure could use a night-colored cloak like that. “Be careful. It was much harder to see him now because it had gotten so dark.” Bobby said. Once you get to be my age I’m sure you’ll know plenty. smoke cigarettes and shoot the shit.” They were standing in the darkness on the Outer Wastralia side of Merestone Pass where Death’s motorcycle had broken down. it’s really warm. “Well maybe now that it’s nice and light out for you you can get a better look at your bike.” “Oh.” Death said.” Death said. Death took the bottle. “But I like it. “I love warm bourbon. then took a nice long sip from the big bottle.” Death said. half-expecting fire to come out of his mouth.” “For real. it got real dark real fast. Gimme some o’ that whiskey. Bobby took a sip for himself first and made a squinchy twisted face as he passed Death the bottle. “If we don’t fix this bike soon we’re going to screw things up. I already know way more than I need to. Hot even. Then looking around seeing nothing but darkness in every direction. You could hear it go glug lub glug. he said: “Man.” he gasped. I’m pretty cold on the inside most of the time so it feels kinda neat. Darkness is like sunlight to me.” .

no. My wife’s getting pretty tired of my bullshit and I’m broke a lot. I actually do need one pretty bad. asking: “So if you can’t get around to do your job does that mean that nobody will die?” “Oh. its own consciousness.” Bobby began. in the technical jargon of my trade. “Anyone. After a few moments he tried again.. but trailed off – he was having trouble formulating his question. accompanied by some clinking sounds as he rummaged through his toolkit. their localities.” .” “’Cause I got a real big workload already. yeah. that’s not really my department. “So.” Death said... what – it’s like. I go around and gather their lost souls and guide them back to the twomb. or. Things die and decompose and feed the living and fecundate the earth and all that. lighting another cigarette. anything.” “What’s your department then?” “My department is the guidance of human souls made homeless and lost by the death of their physical aspects. can die.” Death said. Then: “hey – do you need a job?” Bobby did not reply immediately because he hadn’t believed he’d heard correctly. physically.. anywhere at any time. it even has its own awareness of itself.” Death said. But I’m really going outside of my expertise here. although not in the way that you or I understand it. though. That’s all the physical aspect. no. But after a few seconds he asked Death: “What?” “Do you need a job?” Hesitantly he answered: “Well. and with this delay it’s gonna be a bitch to catch up.297 “Good thinkin. The physical world has its own thing going on.

” “Well. and made ready to go back. or then? I know you kind of said already but I don’t really get it.. It’s outside of time as you know it.” “In that way. But time there is less of a straight line progressing from the past through the present and into the future. I dunno. You’ll see it when you get there. “Okay. divested of everything they accumulated in their time in the world. Where spiritual decomposition and renewal take place. they don’t want to go back into the world. Just think of it as being outside of time. hee hee.once you get used to life in the body you don’t want to . You have your own understanding of time for a reason.” Bobby said.” “I don’t get it at all. his mind drifting back to his youth. “It’s like God. It’s a place outside of time where dead people go to and where born people come from. Souls in the twomb are stripped down to their bare essence. it’s more like a circle.” Bobby said. The twomb is like down the hall from His office.” “Oh. Usually by the time they’re ready though. in the twomb. yes.298 “The what?” “The twomb. Everyone goes through the same thing -. or a spiral.” “That’s okay. it’s where human souls go to after death and come from before birth. “So what happens there. back in Sunday School. always there in its space and unchanged by the progression of events in the world.” “Zuh?” “Don’t try too hard to understand it. Pure.” Death said..

But eventually everybody gets used to life in the world and most people even fall in love with it. and it's not cyclepump. which is why babies come into the world kicking and screaming and crying. so mostly it's just bawling and bleating. And if I'm . I want to stay in the twomb. eyes clenched shut and saying (without actually saying of course because language is one of the things that one is divested of in the twomb. and once you get used to life in the twomb.” "So that's why babies cry?" "Exactly.'" "Yeah.299 go back to the twomb. everybody has to go. That song kicks ass. come in. the psychopomp. with the snakes in it. This is the truly democratic aspect of human existence. – I know I know it from somewhere. but they don't remember. that's it. Everyone's born kicking and screaming. but what it would be saying if it had the words is) I don't want to go out into the great bright world. Now. stripped to your bare essentials." "You know it but you don't remember it. they're afraid to go. And that's where I. Psychopomp – it's in the name of the new Jobbs song: 'Psychopomp Stomp.." "You're a cyclepump?" Bobby asked." "Yeah. They never remember that they've been there before. so much so that they forget all about the twomb. "Wait. You have to go though..“ “And at first when people come out of the twomb everything is too bright and loud and overwhelming and you feel helpless because you’re as naked as you’re ever going to be in the world. by the time they're supposed to go back. they know. and then. it's psych. I've heard that word before. you don’t want to get used to life in a body. my job as a psychopomp is to take souls back to the twomb. with their eyes clenched shut.

they think they don't remember the twomb. although by that time you will probably have forgotten this conversation and everything else about your life in the world. So like if a woman dies in a certain house and I don't get there in time. which will be the first memory you have when you enter the physical world again. they have no idea of where to go. Everybody remembers the twomb. They think they don't know where to go." . then they get lost and. fiddling with a gasket. and they end up kind of dissolving into the places where they die and then I can't find them to guide them. so they can’t leave the world. usually.. well then she just kind of dissolves into the house and haunts it. lots of stuff. next time you're there you won't have been there long before it dawns on you and you think to yourself: ohhhh. they end up haunting the places around where they died." "Like what?" "I dunno." Death said. You'll see." "But isn't thinking you don't remember the same as not remembering?" "No." "So that's how haunted houses happen. Even if I go to the right place I can't extract them from whatever physical objects they've dissolved themselves into. Not remembering the twomb. So then if people die and I'm not there to guide them. and you remember that you remember. now I remember. "There's lots of crazy things that happen if I don't fulfill my duties that I couldn't even begin to explain. and even if I know the house is haunted I can't really do anything about it. I just said I couldn’t even begin to explain it. so that your only awareness is of the twomb..300 not there to do my job they get lost and never find their way back." "Right. and soon after that you will have forgotten remembering that you remember and everything else as you are divested of all of your memories and in fact memory itself.

' hee hee. you never know. but. "I'm thinking of starting up a roadside assistance program. "Good one." he said.. chuckling. okay – is the offer for that job still open?" "Of course!" "Well what's the pay?" "We'll work something out. too.. "Y'know." Death said. I mean. slapping his knee. I think I just might be interested. changing the ratchet on his socket wrench." "What?" "Well..." Death said... and after a brief reverie said: "And it would get me free of my wife." "By benefits you mean like medical and dental?" "Hell yeah." Bobby said." "Exactly. "'Till Death do us part.." "Just give it a try. and we can probably. "You might be good at it." Death said. though. I can definitely get you benefits. rubbing his chin." Bobby laughed.301 "Well. clinking around in his toolkit again. for your wife too. something mutually satisfactory." "Yer killin me bro." Bobby said dreamily. work out a pretty sweet pension plan. laughing. okay.. He felt like he was really starting to relax for the ." "Yeah.

like. He took a sip of bourbon and looked around. down the road a piece. clinking and clanking. "Shit like this is bound to happen. puzzled." Death said. no. He wondered what it looked like.302 first time in a long time. surprised. we forgot about this and could you go back quick and do this. And I mean let's not even mention the fact that they never give me a straightforward job where I can just get in and get out nice and easy wham bam thankyou ma'am like that. peeved. By Merestone Pass. This was the darkest night he'd ever seen on earth. Man alive. I was just fucking in town harvesting some folks and I'd just done the one girl who got all chopped up and et. nothing ever fucking changes with these people. Death's head. . "I shoulda hired an assistant a long time ago. it's always like 'oh.’ and. "That's mine. They're so fuckin useless. chuckling a little to himself. and the guy right by where we are here. rendered in little digital beeps." he said." Death said. taking his cellphone out of his cloak. but he felt safe with Death there. they keep throwing monkeywrenches at me and I'm running around with my head up my ass and I mean. "Oh. I promise it's the last time." "That dead guy at Merestone Pass is real?" Bobby asked. "they give you the kit with the fifteen allen wrenches but you only ever need one for everything that you could possibly have to do. He held it up to the side of his head but still Bobby could not see his face: just a hood with a shadow in it. and that's the one that you can never find when you need it. All was dark. It seemed like a trick answer. He unfolded it and it glowed with an eerie green light. Normally he would've been scared." Death said. like if it was a skull or a pumpkin or nothing or what. now rummaging through his toolkit again. "As real as you and me." Bobby said." he said then. "You know. Then there was a strange new sound: the opening bars of Beethoven's Fifth Symphony. I so fucking hate those other fourteen wrenches.

I've been doing just fine lo these many muthafuckin millennia but we have to keep upgrading every six months or the earth will stop and the sky will fall off of it. I know I'm getting behind. I wa -.303 He spoke: "Hello? Speaking. Squiggle. then sipped some whiskey. uh-huh. Yes. Lemme see that Jim Beam. It's ridiculous is what it is... My fucking bike broke down. "Now then." "What is it?" Bobby asked again. Then: "Eureka!" "What is it?" Bobby asked him. Well. It's a good thing we fixed the bike. "Got it. I'm going as fast as I can.." Death said." Squiggle. "Yeah.. You know I bust my ass." Death said." and then there was a sproinking noise. "Okay." "Here you go. "Ahhh. fine. "I found our problem.hey: do you see that?" . Glug lub glug. I don't know why." Squiggliggliggliligilligilgiggle! "Well can you tell him I'm bustin my dusty black ass out here." Squiggligglisquigigiggle squiggligl." "No. I fucking hate cellphones. No." Bobby said. Man. Do you hear me? Hello? Are you still there? Fuck. but then he cried: "hey!" in an altogether different tone. "We're back in action. "There's a little widgit stuck in the flux capacitor here. "Okay. and if he thinks he can do a better job he can come out here and do it himself." Squiggligglig." he said. holding the jug out in the darkness until an invisible hand took it. "That's the ticket. Ridiculous!" There was a great rage in his voice." Bobby could hear a squiggly voice from the otherside of the line. I went to technical school. I was startin to get really worried." Squiggle squiggle "What? She is? Well.

304 "See what. hombre." "Guh?" "Nevermind." Death said. why don't you just stay in one place and rotate in a circle until you see something." "Okay. where?" "Where I'm pointing. "Dude. Sorry about that.. But it's coming this way. an urgency." Death said. Then said: "What is it?" "What do you see?" "I see a light in the distance. a nervousness." "Oh." "It seems like its really far away. "A whole nother world. And we gotta a whole lotta work to do and got to bust ass to stay ahead. gold." Bobby said. it's pitch black out." Death said. Stick out your hand." Bobby said. "I see a light too." Bobby said. "Like. and there was a strange tone in his voice now.. Then stop and tell me. and proceeded to turn until he saw something." Death said. and Bobby had to wonder: what is it that makes Death nervous? And Death said: "We got to get going now. oh yeah." "Yeah.” Then after a moment's thought: "Well. and it makes the light that I see the darkness as seem as dark as the darkness that I see what you see the light as is to me. We both see it as a light is what I'm saying. "Yeah. I can't see a goddam thing." .

"Okay. . "There we go. Oh. presumably having put the rucksack and the whiskey in the magic saddlebag. what is it?" "What is what?" "The light that's following us or coming towards us or whatever." he said. taken care of. but can I ask you a question first?" "Make it quick. soft and warm." Death said." "Oh. Death's hand was strong. and gimme the whiskey so I can put it in my magic saddlebag. You ready for the ride of your life?" "Yeah. "Now put your arms around me and hold on tight." "Her who?" Bobby asked." Death said. which he'd put the whiskey back in and slung over his back. "That's her. like for a Christmas bonus one year or something.305 Bobby put his hand out. although Bobby still couldn't see anything. comforting: it made Bobby feel safe." "Okay. handing Death the rucksack. He wondered if he worked for Death for long enough if he might get a magic saddlebag." "Okay." Death said. Death took it in his and guided Bobby through the darkness to the motorcycle. Um. When they got to the motorcycle Death got on and said: "now just get on behind me.

Now. "Psychopomp Stomp. are you ready?" "Yeah. but they heard no thunder. and as they rode deeper into the night Bobby felt himself smiling. for to be moving like this. and as they passed back through the Prophet Margin he did not know if he had been made mad or supernatural by his experience. the part near the end: The Power and the Glory. And with a kick he started his bike. The Eversower. "Okay then. but this job was alright. but through a darkness where nothing was seen. "Okay. And the lightning had been so close that the thunder should have been simultaneous. He was thunder now." Bobby said. and he had a job to do. all the words and instruments clearly audible over the thunder of the engine. And a bolt of lightning burned through the air before them iand it reminded Bobby of the Lord's Prayer. but it did not worry him.306 "The Other. Usually he hated working. and it shook the earth. He felt safe because Death was there to guide him. He could feel it vibrating through the body that he clung to and he realized that it was Death howling something into the dark. for they were the thunder." "Alrighty then." Death said. Hold on.) Bobby could feel his entire body vibrating with the thunder of it. . More than alright: this was the best job he'd ever had." "Oh. was strange and beautiful. blasting at an unimaginable volume beyond loud. Death turned on the radio and the Jobbs came on." Then above it all he heard a mad howl that seemed to rip the fabric of the night. (In the daytime though it had a black bulb under the windshield that projected a cone of shadow. so fast. and the engine coming to life sounded like thunder. This bike that had no headlight for it's rider is He Who Sees Light In Darkness." Bobby said.

. But there is that fatass stormcloud up overhead. "Maybe it's just being near me gives you that 'the earth moved' feeling." "Uh-huh." Arthur said. only hear it rumble. She wanted him to keep talking. she smiled.. Maybe all the lightning happens inside of the cloud buried so deep we don't even see it flash. although she didn't mean it.307 57. There was a new sound in his voice now. chuckling." she said. well-lit now (compared to the deep darkness they'd been walking in) by a bluewhite light that came shuttering through the half-naked treebranches as the trees swayed in the wind. "I think it was thunder. a playful swagger that he remembered from long ago but that had not been there for a long time. "Was that thunder?" Maya asked him as they climbed the hill behind the library." "Yeah. "Oh shut up. walking along the end (or beginning) of the path along the river. But maybe it’s just that I give you that feeling.” . she didn't want to talk. although I didn't see any lightning.

shocked. Not again." Maya said." a voice said. from the river path. It had a Brooklyn accent and seemed to be coming from the shadows under the boughs of the trees. "I don't know. Then Maya said: "Hey – who and where are you?" And a green-haired man dressed all in black materialized out of the shadow in the sumacs and said: "I'm Hans Blitzen and I'm right here. "Whaddaya think the lights are for?" Arthur asked." And emerging from the foliage on the other side of the lawn." the voice said. Chris said: "Oh good God." "What are you doing here?" Maya gasped. They turned to look at where the voice came from but they saw no-one. "Not quite. The remains of the library lay about a hundred feet ahead. With all the moss on it it looked like it had been that way for centuries. She also felt a little guilty. "I'm conducting an investigation.308 “I like walking in the rain on a warm night like this. holding hands with Arthur in front of Chris." They came to the edge of the trees and walked out of the foliage and onto the library lawn and into the light. "Maybe to keep people from coming here and looking around. But Chris didn't seem to notice: he had his eyes fixed on Blitzen. "Who was that?" Ananda asked as she and Finnegan walked hand in hand into the light. "Have you been ." Arthur said.

the whole time?" "Yeah. then said: "Should I?" And there were more tense moments where no one spoke. and also. Maya thought to herself. Chris walked past them to the front of the group and stood about ten feet from Blitzen. with a weird intensity in his face and voice that puzzled Maya. Blitzen replied: "How do you know about the Morphoplasm?" . But." Chris said." Both Arthur and Maya were suddenly full of questions. There was a tension like electricity in the air: Arthur felt the hairs on the back of his neck stand up. and this was even more unusual. not taking his eyes off of Blitzen. like. The reason Chris seems so different is that he's having a psychotic episode. and the "Morphoplasm" is just one of his delusions. Who else would I be?" "The Morphoplasm. Then he said: "Be careful with this guy. Blitzen hesitated for a moment. Then finally Blitzen asked: "I am Hans Blitzen. they simply stood there and watched." Chris said.309 following – or walking with – us. possibly – probably – drug-induced. but neither spoke. And he's weaving all of this into some vast tapestry of paranoia that's unfurling through his head. Blitzen eyed him suspiciously. He might not really be Hans Blitzen. He gave Blitzen a steely look as he awaited his response. And conversely. Ah-hah. unprecedented in fact – he had an air of authority. to her surprise. asked him: "What are you talking about?" "Remember me?" Chris asked him. Chris was cool and detached in a way that was unusual for him. eyeing him suspiciously. and is probably a symbolic expression of the frightening feeling he has that nothing is keeping its shape.

"Or rather.) Chris listened to him very intently as everyone else stood by watching and listening curiously with mixed . Urreal mercurreal mercurious Morphoplasm." Chris said.310 "You told me. He remembered the slime too." "Okay. I mean the Morphoplasm. "I understand your suspicion. lemme touch you. If you're familiar with the Morphoplasm then you know that it has a certain sliminess and has very bright eyes. Arthur thought. you can look in my eyes: they're not disturbingly bright. if you really are Hans Blitzen." Chris said.it?" Chris asked. "As real as you and me. his voice distant as he remembered those eyes that seemed made from the raw stuff of the sun.. and you can touch me: I'm not slimy or viscid or anything. For a while I thought I was crazy. had like a German accent or something.." (Mercureal. "But how do I know you're you and not. or whatever the fuck – told me." "Yeah. And that sounds like the Morphoplasm alright.. who took his hands and examined them.. he it turned into a winged snake and flew away.. but it's for real isn't it?" "Yes.. .. although he said he was from Bensonhurst." Blitzen walked up to Chris. the Morphoplasm told me. but he. "The Morphoplasm is a very tricky creature. but the Hans Blitzen I talked to. smiling to himself. did not dispel the authority." Blitzen said. fuck. an uncertainty in his voice that yet "Well." nodding. until he was either satisfied or simply didn't know how else he might verify Blitzen's identity.. and after a half-minute or so of that then began feeling with his hands the physicist's face as a blind man might. Mercurial. I dunno. not knowing exactly what to look for. But after he – or it. or it." Blitzen said. He said: "C'mere. was you at the time.

"originally it was meant to be the perfect killer. The men who decide such things decided that the Morphoplasm could operate much more successfully for a much longer time if its existence was kept a secret. and so on and so forth as you can imagine until it gets to. Maya and Arthur were both familiar with the latest trends in science. “I guess this is the best time to tell you that you shouldn't repeat any of this to anyone.S. "For fear of getting killed or imprisoned. Not that the Morphoplasm is any more a ridiculous concept than the Gooey Bomb. government.. and Blitzen was the most famous American physicist since Stephen Hawking and was given a lot of attention in the entertainment (/"news") media and was always stirring up controversy in the scientific community. but then reconsidered and said: "or do. rip the target's throat out and then fly away before anyone knew what was happening. say.” He waved his hand. but sometimes with these things it depends on . see if you can get people to believe you. the wife of a secret service agent. say. I mean. the president or prime minister or dictator or CEO. stealing his genomic code and assuming his form.. My colleagues and I were not in agreement as to the moral and ethical aspects of creating such a monster. You can imagine. And yet we could not refuse to work on it for fear of. well. and then the Morphoplasm assassinates him or her and assumes his or her form and position and changes the policies of the nation or corporation so that they are in accordance with the plans of the U. Etc..311 feelings of fascination and incredulity." he paused for a moment and cleared his throat. imagine an assassin who could work his way up through any chain of command in any government or corporation." Blitzen continued. then getting whatever information she would be privy to as the wife of the agent. And that's the covert version. killing her and then assuming her form.. "You see. "But it didn't work out that way. then killing the agent." he said. If the need for secrecy was not paramount it would be easy for the morphoplasm to swoop in as an eagle (consider the symbolic significance!). He might start with." "Whoa." Finnegan said.

d. because they think we made it according to their specs. and everyone’ll get to know it at once. it just escaped. the government doesn't know that. But until then it’ll sound a little far-fetched. which is play jokes on people. would . although I'm sure that it wasn't. but we didn't. It also considers itself hilarious. It thinks – and it's probably right – that it just can't be caught. And then we didn't even have to let it out. but more of a trickster. “In the end it's harmless. Once it had developed to a certain point nothing could hold it anymore. "So we ended up making not a killer. Nobody would. which really is good security unless you're dealing with a creature that can mimic any physical aspect of any living thing. such as talking about itself a lot.312 who's saying them. He wouldn't believe it." Like how I know about what really happened to the library. But the thing is. but I told the government that as a kind of a coverup. "So anyway though. and it doesn't seem to think it needs to hide in order to avoid getting caught. given its personality I'll bet it'll play some crazy prank on t. really. But I mean. instead of killing people it proceeded to do just what we'd designed it to do. but I was willing to take the risk. verification on all the doors at our complex. "So what I did tell the government was that the Morphoplasm might go on a rampage. Although it seems to have developed a few unexpected characteristics. after it escaped. if they ever heard the truth.v. About this I believe it is mistaken. Arthur thought to himself. The government had thought that they were so state of the art because they had voice and retinal scan i. If they knew the truth I'd be dead or otherwise dealt with by now. and then they told me to go down to the library and act all crazy on the news and yell all that Prometheus crap so that the American people. Of course by not bringing this to the attention of the military brass who thought they were in control of this operation we may have been involved indirectly. and then I convinced them that it was responsible for the library incident.

it’s one of the most inane things I’ve ever heard. have covertly fostered said deep distrust on a grand scale) and dismiss it as “conspiracy theory. it doesn't make sense!) And I know it was not only unscientific but stupid. undifferentiated. Where did all the books go and why are there thousands of pieces of crumpled-up blank white paper covered in slime? How did a thick moss grow on the bricks seemingly overnight? What actually caused the structural damage? And what is the origin of the iridescent slime all over everything – I've had it analyzed. But itself.. -. Oneness..it's just slime.. although it takes a little more finnagling (the government ended up having Noam Chomsky say publicly that it wasn't true.. it's just... But as a lover of mystery and nature I find it absolutely fascinating. how can I put this? be composed of. As a particle physicist it’s very distressing to find something that seems to not be made of particles – no molecular.313 associate it with some nutjob public intellectual (the government knows that the people have a deep distrust of public intellectuals. or tried to.) "But now what I'm concerned with is what did cause the library incident.” Then the government floats the “Gooey Bomb” story as their coverup of the rampaging Morphoplasm... and it was delicious! Have you ever read about the Ambrosia of the Olympian Gods? Or the Soma of the Vedas?" . Goo.anything. so it just. --I even tasted it.. as do the people of the nation... It's all just a smear. I mean. atomic or subatomic composition whatsoever. no stranger to the deep distrust of the public itself.. partly because the government. that there was in fact a Gooey Bomb. that there is no such thing as a Gooey Bomb. and I mean this Gooey Bomb thing. “And yet the townspeople take to it like flies on shit. but it isn't. but. “So that everyone began to believe that it was true. And it displays very interesting and unusual properties: that unearthly iridescent shimmer and a smell like hyacinths and lilacs – (iridescence and scent are both supposed to be results of a substance's molecular composition. If you put it under a microscope and look at it it doesn't seem to .

and he followed.. around to the front. followed them without going into the light. "Arthur!" Maya said. under the surface.. But now he did. slipped in under the surface of people's understanding in whispers and hums.. rather sharply.v. there's something so mysterious and beautiful about this substance that I can forgive it for being completely irrational. Dr. And Ash." "Oh. and yet it was all much different than he'd thought (or not thought). earlier in the day. He'd known for a while now.314 (Arthur raised an eyebrow. and now it dawned on him that what had happened was still happening. invoked or evoked.. but he hadn't really felt it." she said. or by eye contact or touch or in some kind of serendipitous intersubjective understanding. Blitzen wants to show us something. "Sorry. a physicist!" Now Arthur felt like he understood something that he'd been thinking about all day..or I don't know." "We're going out front." he said. since seeing reports from the library on t. For the first time it occurred to him what the real (?) version of "the library incident" might have meant. Let's go. And I'm a scientist! And not just a scientist.) "And I mean. who had been watching from a shadow in the trees.. but he still did not think Blitzen or anybody else would believe him if he told them what had really happened. she took his hand and led him. or insinuated. "Snap out of it. but maybe it can be suggested.. I know that there is a truth here that is as true as it is incommunicable. . or songs.. . But I wouldn't know how to explain it.

Blitzen seemed to be waiting for something. "These two men are the librarians. They all stood in a group on the front lawn of the library. Around front were more lights illuminating the ruins and the grounds." then turned to the group. and above the lights on the lawn a thick darkness suspended in which was a giant clockface that was not actually floating in space but very convincingly seemed to be. a few articles of clothing that had been left behind. taking out his cigarettes and lighter. "Thanks for reminding me. . as if on cue. but everyone had seen it before in daylight and knew that it was mounted on the clock tower that was a part of the City of Faith town hall. "Where are they?" Blitzen asked nobody in particular. and beyond that the streets intermittently lit by bluish lamps. and then. that he thought might just have been the wind. or anybody in general." Finnegan said.315 creeping along the in the shadows of the trees lining the edge of the library lawn. "There you are. with a concrete path down the middle) but the rest of the tower lay shrouded in the night's thick darkness. two men came walking out of the ruins. Or someone. The lawn was divided by yellow police tape that was strung from tree to tree into a clean green inner section and a garbage-strewn outer section full of the remnants of the day's gathering. "Do you smell smoke?" Maya asked. He'd forgotten that he'd only met her two days before. which stood next door to the library (though separated by about a hundred yards of lawn and garden that they shared." said Blitzen. scraps of paper. cups and cans and cigarette butts. But time is different at different times. Maya and Arthur rolled their eyes at each other. It gave Arthur a faintly surreal feeling that was compounded by a distant screaming that he was not sure that he actually heard. "Ah-hah.

"T. "Kevin and T. have been helping me in conducting my investigation. irked." T.J. said. "Maybe you should cry about it.J." Pagluica said. "I was going to tell them that. After about a minute two other men appeared out of the darkness whom various members of the group . said." Lagos said." Blitzen said." Then there was an awkward silence. "And we have the key." And they made introductions all around.J." "Fine." "Hi. "Now. "Call me that I mean." Lagos said." T." "I'd love to -.J." "The City Athletic Association stores their lights for night games in the town hall annex. They provided the lighting equipment." Lagos said. Just shut the hell up.316 Kevin Lagos and Thomas Pagluica. "Oh shut up.if you would.

Big Mike said: "The police station's empty. who'd been his coconspirator in the crime of creating the Morphoplasm. and Blitzen had often listened to him go on and on about these things. but he was reminded now of a friend. who were that life. And Hans Blitzen wondered at it all. who was first and foremost a man of science but who was also a great imaginer and lover of possibilities and could go on for hours about things like the lost city of Atlantis (and the whole lost world of which it had been the capitol). the Yeti of the Himalayas and Alaska’s Wendigo) and intelligent life on other planets. This was definitely not the earth but some other rock spinning round some other star in some spacetime very far from the one where he thought he'd been living. near-human primates (in every region of the world. They were it. nodding. including the American Bigfoot. Father Montoya and Big Mike seemed as puzzled at seeing everyone as everyone was at seeing them. whom everyone always called Big Mike and whose last name nobody knew. the police station is empty: perhaps once it was as on earth as he knew or thought he'd known it. the brilliant and eccentric Milan R Shah. the existence of undiscovered. the Canadian Sasquatch. but had never taken him seriously until now. himself and those around him. . but if Science was God then God is now dead again: on this planet reason has had its day. He was not a man given to frivolous speculation.317 recognized as the old priest Father Montoya and a strapping thirtyish man with bright orange hair like a halo of fire. Shah. its sun had set. when it occurred to him that there must be intelligent (if insane) life on other planets because it was they. where he thought he'd been born and raised and had gone to college with Milan R. Finally. Perhaps there'd been a time when Science was God and nothing could escape Its light for long." Arthur said. this was not earth: the laws of earth are not to be found here. and this was that alien planet. his college comrade and longtime colleague. For a while everyone just stood there not knowing what to do or say." "That seems about right. who’d once been so full of implausibilities but who now seemed to be the only one who knew the truth which was that there certainly was intelligent (if insane) life on other planets.

half-brother to the braggart. And often one finds forgiveness and acceptance. and the fear of an unendurable punishment that might come as a consequence of being found out. once relieved. less pathological types – cousin to the exhibitionist. But I will say that to be burdened or haunted by a guilty conscience (and to have this compounded by the trauma of having been victimized) can be very trying. . but most of all one finds release. And that secret shame will feed on one's fear and anxiety and grow within one so that one's ideas of the possible results of being found out (especially in terms of disapproval. and one experiences liberation. He is intricately related to a number of more common.318 The age of intelligence is past. katharsis. he thought gravely. condemnation. a gateway out of the twomb of sorrow in whose darkness one has been curled up for so long. The age of insanity has begun. 58. feels the need to keep confessing?). soul-sister to the histrionic – a strange breed: very easy to understand in some ways (for who among us has not felt the relief provided by the confession of something that has burdened our conscience?) but rather more difficult in another (for who among us. mournfully to himself. similar to the high created by a drug. although I would not pretend expertise in the etiologies or genealogies of the family of phenomena to which he belongs. relief. This is one of the reasons that confession is so relieving: one finds out that it is not the end of the world but a beginning. and is often exacerbated by the need to keep that thing that haunts you hidden. Perhaps you already know the confession addict. ecstasy and enlightenment. retribution) are radically incommensurate with the actual probable consequence. The act of finally releasing this thing from within oneself induces a euphoria.

trying to get back to a place where he can never go again. but to the acts of violence. These things gnawed at him. so he'd called Father Montoya. and the addict goes on. humiliation and rape of which he'd been a victim and which haunted him (he was in fact more ashamed of having been emasculated than he was of anything he’d done to another). As it was with Stevie Salazar. deceived by the honesty of his memory. after confessing to the police. but the addict keeps trying – that is the defining quality of the true addict: he is not a quitter – he keeps trying. who always used to smile and shake his head at Stevie a lot when he'd been a boy. and the fresh absence of euphoria can hurt like mocking laughter and he had these things chewing him up from the inside out and he thought that if he could bring the euphoria back then everything would feel alright again. and he’d betrayed Jim Daniels. never returns. alas. But he couldn't confess to the police again: he'd already told them everything. He was responsible for the murder of another man. who had at one time considered him a friend. but as it is with most (rituals) drugs. What makes the confession addict (by my own definition – I will not pretend expertise in any epidemiology) is the repeated attempt to return to this euphoric state by repeating the original act (like a ritual that invokes a primordial myth) of confession. as euphorias do. keeps confessing over and over again in repeated futile attempts to relive the original event. which is. the euphoria faded.319 And like any other euphoria this one subsides eventually. So he'd called Father Montoya and Father Montoya . The euphoria faded. But it didn't last. the man whom he had admired and wished to emulate. and the man he had helped do it. Stevie thought that it would feel good to confess to him. to not only the illegal acts that he had committed. the original (time) high is never matched. had raped him and humiliated him and made him drink blood. and the grim realities of his situation began to set in: he was in jail and he probably would be for a long time. he felt better on the inside than he had in years after letting out that which had burdened and haunted him. lost to time. even if just for a little while.

and Big Mike asked Father Montoya: Is this a bad symbol. . They’d looked around for Stevie. loved the idea. yes. the only one left when all of the others had left for the plaza. who he knew might be interested and who showed up at the station almost immediately. what you did and what that man did to you. So that when Father Montoya and Big Mike had arrived the station was empty but all of the lights were on and the doors were unlocked. yes. what he'd done. does he bear the mark of the serpent? Does he hide his eyes? Do his fangs flash like fire when he smiles? And Stevie said yes. with Stevie's help. because it was tearing him up inside and he thought that telling someone might make him feel better. Deville was an engrossing and influential speaker. and he turned and asked Stevie: Do you want to tell everyone what happened.320 hadn't been home but when he finally did get Stevie's message he came running but not fast enough. And like (almost) everyone else in the city. Deville had wild eyes and arch arched eyebrows like Jack Nicholson. This is a very bad symbol indeed. thought that terrorists were responsible for bombing the library and that the terrorist responsible for the library bombing was also the one who. this is a bad symbol. I might be able to rig a P. officer Davis. asked him what his hardon was for confession and Stevie told him that he just wanted to tell someone. Father? And the priest nodded and said Yes. or for any policeman who might be able to help.. He'd tried calling the newspapers and the radio stations but the cops stopped him. setup.A. assented immediately. but bring a megaphone just in case. and so he asked Stevie – this man. Nick Deville. who had been left behind at the station because he was not the sharpest tool in the shed. had murdered – crucified – Jim Daniels. Mike. and so they took him out of the holding cell and they cuffed him and took him to the plaza. and nodding Stevie said Yes. So Davis called his friend St. I think there might even be one built into the stage. and kept saying things to get Davis excited for what he calling The Big Event. and found none. everyone. And one of them. Davis got rather caught up in the proceedings. anyone.. and when they left the station Davis was so caught up in listening to Deville that he left all the lights on and even forgot to lock the doors. yes and yes and so Deville said to Davis: Let's get him to the plaza and get him up on stage and have him confess to everyone. and Davis. and Deville said to him: Bring a megaphone. very fluent and charismatic.

strange harrowing frightening surreal. in shock. Like destiny. somehow so very fitting. the only one who really . They'd all been on the lawn talking about the library incident. * She'd smelled smoke and he'd heard screams but neither of them had paid much attention until the Wailing Woman came burning their way. flowmocean muse of my etymorpheus transmusion. although he did not believe in destiny.. oh madampsychosis of the true transmigration. running and howling. but – to Arthur at least – somehow right. It had been. but then he'd never believed in love at first sight either until he'd been stricken by it – it's hard to believe or not believe in something forever.321 59. Oh mercurious mermaiden of this big dark dawn.. half-trying not to. Walking through the blue cones of light that the streetlamps projected downward to the street: out of the darkness between the lights and through the light and back into the darkness. my inverbial singsong eye.. yes. or just for your whole life even. half-thinking.. except for Arthur. They were walking alone now. wrapped in the silence that often follows unbelievable events.

some do not because they are watching Finnegan who at that same instant has pulled his dead brother Brendan's gun out from his waistband under his Barry Sanders jersey and who does not steady himself nor aim just squeezes a round off almost nonchalantly and hits the Wailing Woman dead center between where her eyes used to be at a distance of almost a hundred yards. striking the clock tower on the town hall. trapped on a runaway train careering into chaos on wrongway rails smoking and bellowing down into the vast yawning maw of soulfurious darkfiery Hell Itself. which catches fire and teeters slightly and will soon come toppling down. and they'd been amazed and incredulous and ashamed that they hadn't noticed until then. It became obvious to them all that the city was burning and perhaps the world ending. and some who witness that shooting think that the lightning and thunder have come as a result of Finnegan's action and perhaps they have. But then during a lull in the exchange they all heard her wailing and they heard it getting louder.322 knew what had happened. but while some witness that. awakened out of one dream into another stranger still and it was like they were caught in something too big for them to matter to. In those saturated instants came changes of mind and heart and soul. and he wasn't as drunk then as he is now. Everything they'd been talking about suddenly seemed irrelevant as the Wailing Woman came running at them. They had gone from strangeness to strangeness. She falls to the ground and Arthur thinks to himself this can only have been destiny luck providence or all three because he's seen Finnegan empty an entire clip trying (and failing) to hit a beer bottle on a fencepost at fifteen feet. part of something they did not choose nor understand. as it is with events which are often shaped by time but which also reshape time. But then in another instant things change: there is a flash and there is thunder and they are simultaneous because they are so close. as time changes souls so too do souls change time. and they looked over to where it seemed to be coming from and they saw the firelight dancing in flickering orange and yellow light on the trees and the little bits of visible rooftop and occasionally they saw tongues of flame licking up almost lasciviously into the sky and could just barely discern in the night's darkness something darker still: the blacker than black smoke flowing up from the fire through the air to feed the immense stormcloud looming up where the sky used to be. He just listened. doppling. And after that time seemed to pass in instants too full of incident to be as brief as a few tiny clicks on clock might assert. and .

. leaving behind the scientist and the librarians who. . somehow not consuming her... moaning painfully. Arthur did not ask Finnegan why he'd been carrying that goddam gun (which he'd seen so many times before on dark drunken nights and considered a bad symbol indeed) under his hockey jersey. nor did Ananda – she actually seemed aroused. After a long silence they broke up into smaller groups and pairs dispersing this way and that. And those who left took various different paths in various different directions.. licking and flickering in the gloom. unbearably. anarchy and disaster. landing on top of her with a crunch and a barely audible bluesounding whoosh! and it is in that instant that her flame goes out and she is finally silenced and though most do not notice it in the next instant time stops. thinking that they knew . and she's just about resurrected herself when the teetering clock tower topples over and falls with a big rough ripping noise like trees cracking. having witnessed what they'd witnessed and having been investigating what they'd been investigating. and when it began again there was a strong sense of silence and no-one spoke.323 the Wailing Woman is fallen but she is not dead and she begins to rise slowly. who saw her aura burst as if into flame so that where once it had hummed and hovered in a gentle pale lavender around her now it seethed and blazed orange and red like an incandescent teardrop longing and yearning in the darkness of the night. She’d inhaled the sweet aphrodisiac smell of smoking gun: this was most evident to Ash. flame pouring off of her and tapering like a teardrop to a tip. wondered if science and libraries might soon be burned off of the face of the earth by this new now-rampant madness. all three of them feeling a little crazy themselves especially after Lagos called nineleven and got no answer.

and his heart was pounding and he could feel it drumming in his blood lunatic pure like Keith Moon all through his body and everything felt very rushing and throbbing and dark but it was alright. let's not go to the plaza. who went to San Miguel's. They hadn't thought they'd been walking that way.). when they'd been leaving the library. oh photonegative fire. coincidence. galaxies of constellations of blackstar words stippled across white blank page skies in layers and levels of intersecting patterns. no problem.. let's make sure we don't go to the plaza. providence. no question about it. prank or cosmick clockwork at the plaza. it was alright and but she seemed to like not speaking and she was not shy she just liked smiling quietly.. but that was slightly unnerving because he was very verbal. they'd said. yeah. * Arthur and Maya walked alone along a small street where none of the houses were on fire. oh drifting phantom perfume of the flowering night. except for Father Montoya and Big Mike. and they walked through the darkness and through the starcolored auras of the sparsely spaced streetlamps out of the darkness and into the light and back into darkness like the moon and he knew where they were going but he knew that they were going some other way too. where they would later witness a miracle. fireworks of shadow spidering darkly across white inner skies. both nodding. )even that we are all part of one long poem of everything written in a Big Book.. Oh lost souls aswim in the darkmocean light.. not knowing that eventually they would almost all reconvene by accident. in themselves. okay..324 where they were going. which was nice. Not going to some . oh dark dancer primeval. to some other place in time.. At one point in time. sometimes in fact felt as if he were composed entirely of language. oh blackstar constellations on blankpage goodbook skies. come creaking open in a rusty raindrop and swing wide that ancient invisible hinge. When they arrived at the plaza they were surprised.

A little weird maybe. Right? That was all they'd had to do. One of them Arthur immediately recognized as Stevie Salazar. everyone was looking at them. Arthur's knees grew weak. So it’s win-win. jabbing him in the ribs with her elbow. and he knew that she knew that he knew how she felt about it. said: "No. Arthur and Maya. who asked Stevie: "Is that him?" asking him face to face but with his voice carrying out over the crowd through speakers and in his tone a sense of projection as if the man asking was an actor who knew that he was acting and they were performing a play. There was some real hostility in it. "No." . and Stevie. Looking out over the plaza they saw fires dancing out in the darkness to the distance in the west. "Disappointed that you're not her one and only?" Maya asked." he said. a little hard so that it actually hurt. because everyone was very quiet.325 place that you know where it is should be easy. There were two men up on the stage by the statue of St. but when they shifted their focus back to their immediate surroundings." And then a tension that had been clenching them all – the audience. Some were also engaged in games or singing songs or in various stages of making love. the easiest thing in the fucking world: just don't go there. and through that opening he saw Brit on the ground on her back and her bare legs up in the air kind of bouncing as Charles rutted over her. leaning into the microphone. And they'd failed miserably. the very air itself – relaxed. Faith. the players. wandering around smoking cigarettes and drinking beer. although he did not recognize the other man. playfully. Arthur saw a crowd of people part like a curtain as a man and a woman with a child in her arms wended their way through. They did not yet notice how many people there were gathered in the plaza. released. quietly watching them. and the people in the crowd began to talk amongst themselves. he's a nice guy. "I've found someone else too. That's Arthur.

She rested her chin on his shoulder and watched as they turned and she drank with her eyes the endless colors and forms of humanity that she saw." They walked over to ask him and he told them no mas cerveza aqui." "Oh. and had almost made it through without incident when Arthur was nearly run over by Celia Ojaque.326 She wrapped her arms around him and he lifted her up and began turning around slowly. Cats and dogs." she said. who kept passing a bottle of something back and forth with the biker dude. But there he was." So he did. but then he told them that there was another man selling beer over by the entrance to the Mercado.. wait – was it? Yes. They were both a little surprised because Chris had left the library going in the direction diametrically opposite the one that one would have gone in if one had been going to the plaza. it was: Chris's Granny. And he asked her: "What is it?" "I see Chris. slowly." and Maya said to Arthur: "Let's go see if we can get beer from that guy. The lion will lay down with the lamb. who had finally made it out of the house and who was still drunk. Nearby was a man sitting on a big blue and white cooler with a sign on it that said "cerveza aqui/beer here. Then he asked them if they knew where that was and they said yes and then made their way through the crowd. "Over there." he said.. the end of one person indistinguishable from the beginning of the next. though that wouldn't help Celia: she would never see him again) and had not Maya grabbed Arthur by the collar of his shirt and yanked him . Hadn't even gone back towards Maya's house to go get his truck or anything. all of it flowing together. living together. furious and curious to know where her Bobbito had gone (he was corralling souls over on the west side with his new boss but would be arriving at the plaza shortly. as such things go. talking to some hairy scary biker dude and a little old lady. Maya thoughts to herlsef. Until someone stuck out and she said: "Stop. and turned to look.

and Arthur tried to pay but Sparkplug wouldn’t let him so Arthur crumpled up a Lincoln and winged it through the window past Sparkplug. so he put up an unomomento finger to Arthur and Maya. in fact. Fortunately she'd grabbed him and yanked him back just in time as the massive woman ferried past. smirking with his eyes. said: “Issonna sparklydew’d bigileg postop pow!” “You were definitely right about that. Arthur with his language and Sparkplug with his nonlanguage. an old ice cream truck with the side window open wide with little awning over it in the shadow of which Arthur saw a rubbery cartoonish face that he recognized as Sparkplug. He was haggling with some arty twentysomethings over something when he looked up and saw Arthur and Maya and waved them over and proceeded to ignore the twentysomethings. and when he was finished he turned smiling to Arthur and Maya and handed them two bottles of beer with little bits and chunks of ice still clinging to the labels and around the tops. So Arthur asked him: "So what is this? What's going on?" . The sidewalk in front of the entrance to the Mercado was wide enough to park a truck on. and Sparkplug just smiled and whipped cold little stars at them. Celia Ojaque might have flattened him. telling Sparkplug he’d rue the day that he reaped the whirlwind etc. It was almost like they were opposites of expression (/twins of impression). Sometimes he felt like Sparkplug was the only person in the city who understood him.” Arthur admitted. laughing and occasionally shouting something.. and began hurling chips. chunks and handfuls of ice at the twentysomethings. someone had. who laughed and nodded bouncily. who threw their arms up around their heads and fled. who began to curse him and call him names. It was amusing/terrifying to him that they often thought the same things but expressed themselves in such different ways. After that they made it through the seething crowd and out into the street where there was much more room to move and to breathe and to maintain some semblance of sanity. The amusing/terrifying thing was that everybody understood Sparkplug's nonlanguage better than Arthur's language. and they crossed the street. vowing revenge.327 back like a dog.

Arthur noticed that he had only four fingers on each hand. it is something that it can never actually see for itself because it would unravel the tapestry. and he reminded Arthur of the kid from Rushmore. At which point in thought he was bumped into and ripped untimely from his womb of abstraction by a young man in a black beret and Buddy Holly glasses followed by a pack of young people in black berets so. which the other threads in the tapestry will not allow. the uncontrollable? What is the point to which we are capable of being an I in the storm if the world generates itself in its own incomprehensible acts of destruction? Or are we an eye. He looked down at his hands and seemed to be doing some kind of ciphering. because it(the thread)’s position within that picture is something that it cannot transcend. and Arthur began to wonder if he'd been as wrong about destiny as he’d been about love at first sight. who'd never crossed paths with Sparkplug before. moist and tender thing. which exists independant of pictures more like a mathematical grid or score upon which the irrational world like a music is somehow writ. She smiled quietly.328 Maya. Sparkplug screwed up his face in cartoonish contortion and then unwound it. is irrelevant except insofar as it contributes to some literal (within the master figure that is) “big picture” that. least of which being that aside from the picture the thread’s place is determined by the more abstract underlying order of the warp and the weft of the threads. He was thinking pretty hard. watched and waited. whose mission in life is above all to see? And if I were the eye of the storm what would I see? . Finally after he'd finished his ciphering he said: "Nihinymous oblazin onninnanna peepsee uddergunna whacka wicca shiddoubt widda fucky forsemen fireflood anna pinata moondata ringabelle cannibbalist wo n'tsh gho stown stownundu.. The way things felt now it was like they were all threads in a tapestry wherein the individual thread. was fascinated by him and enjoyed listening to him talk to Arthur. vulnerable. catlike. and Arthur looked into his eyes and wondered Who are We? what does this particular intersection of threads actually signify? Can any metaphor accurately illustrate the ultimate truth of the unknowable. like the Wailing Woman." Which. for their own reasons. or person. was disturbing and dangerous but seemed somehow right. which is to say a squishy.. There was a beautiful tao to it.

Across the plaza. It was his house we were knocking at when I escaped." and looked around ominously. presenting them to the crowd." Stevie said. And everyone saw the gun... The man on stage asked Stevie: "Is that him?" "No. mouth. Finnegan appeared from one of the many small side streets with a twinkle in his eye and Ananda at his side. but after a minute he realized that everyone was paying attention to someone else. that's Jamie Finnegan. Finnegan first looked stage-slyly to the left and right and then undid his pants and let them fall down around his ankles." and then. He pulled up the front of his jersey with one hand and cupped his genitals with the other. Which the great black cloud above finally did. violently bright.. howling and hollering and clapping and laughing. just when he'd been about to say something really important. And he shouted out: "We're alive!" To which the crowd replied with a great roar of approval. and . said: "Dipshadow ripshit rumblesilkscreen.. And put them in his Standing there with Ananda. "Dumbumble twombit brightmare saladactyl. The crowd stared at him quietly. it fell to the ground with his pants when he undid them. Geraldo wanted to murder him too. with a flash of lightning so dazzlingly. highfiving.329 Then Sparkplug spoke. their silence and apprehension bursting into a general celebratory exuberance like a cloud bursts into rain. the words deserted him. Geraldo wanted to murder him and cut off his. and a hush fell over the plaza that he thought was because of him. raising drinks in the air. his genitals. Shadark aguarealism diggit inna gyrecychlid threestone inglight cloudbust clodburst chrismchord chloud.

Soon though they recovered and got back up. that many people fell to the ground in terror. like things were being warped by the chemical reactions of the collective consciousness into some carnival dream cum Walpurgisnacht. the empty space that was . with a catalpa bough (reaching out off of the same catalpa he'd climbed to get onto the roof in the first place) about ten feet overhead shielding him from the heavy rain. putting their hands on their hearts and shaking their heads and smiling at one another. some without knowing it. It was like they wanted to get rid of the spaces. It was very dark now but one could see things plainly. Cats of course would never participate in such a thing. not tonight at least. on the roof of a store called SkullzNrozes. or sang only silently to themselves or humming gently in their heart. They sang together. and the dark sky lightning'd and thundered again.330 a crack of thunder so loud. relieved. and the ground shook. and even some of the perspectives grew skewed due to this strange and seemingly misshapen qualtity. close again. Ash saw things perhaps more clearly than most. a few even curling up into the fetal position. and there were tall lamps all about the plaza. the spaceness. The rain began to fall in fat splatty drops. He thought that it must be very important whatever was going to happen. laughing. they needed their space. perhaps also without knowing it. throwing their heads and arms over their heads. He'd never seen so many people at once. There was a beautiful rhythm to it. The stage was well-lit and the storefronts were too. a green umbrella of broad overlapping leaves. and though in some way everything seemed saturated with shadow and defined by darkness yet it was all defined. and everyone began to dance. though some things did seem like silhouettes. which he liked because it smelled like Maya's house. He watched with great interest from above. others like phantoms. whatever it was that had gotten all of these people here. between themselves. But the people didn't seem to want it. and after the last person got up everyone began to yell: "We're alive!" like Finnegan had.

not to be separated by the spaces. He understood that people liked getting wet sometimes.331 responsible for the selvesness itself. liked getting rained on.. but he didn't know what.. while everyone danced as the rain came pouring down. except very close to his body. even though cats never do. where it was a deep red. that this was all in preparation for something. His aura was black as the night itself. he felt. which as the rain began to fall harder and harder the rhythm of it disappeared disintegrating into a . The people saw him when he entered the plaza at the northwest corner. dry like anyone with any cat-sense at all would be. and once he got over how uncatlike it all was he began to see the beauty in it. strange lights gleaming from his dark eyes. Without speaking everyone knew. he was sure. He knew that Maya was somewhere among the people but not in the middle muddle where everyone was melting together (which was good because if she were then she would not be Maya anymore and he loved her because she was Maya). And time passed this way for a while. so they wanted to not be selves. and he got that feeling like the one he'd gotten as a kitten just before he'd understood the moon and he knew. St. All squiggling and wiggling like a log full of larvae. to be full of otherselves. and he watched the music of the townspeople growing out of them and swirling around the rhythm of the rain as they sang an harmonious hymn. The dancing stopped and everyone turned to look. that something was going to happen. they danced turning through thick and flowing curved chords of color. Everyone seemed to sense him as if by radar. but safe and dry and herself somewhere under an overhang or a tree or something somewhere. he waited and he watched. kind of throbbing with the music. and so he did with the people as he'd done with the moon: he watched and he waited. Ash saw him first as he came down San Francisco St. Strange as strange could be.. Until finally the nameless one arrived. Their auras were splashing and spraying in swirling dark rainbows. Nick Deville did not need to ask Stevie. And with a hush fallen over everyone there was now only the sound of the rain and its sibilant rhythm like a giant wordless whispering chant. the people enjoying it were beautiful in their way and somehow he knew. to fill the others with their own selves.

or if they thought that he did than they were not afraid of being shot. before he answered. a pure radiance like sunlight. his voice damped by the rain's liquid din but still discernable -. that's him. They were not quite dancing so much anymore as writhing. including the nameless one." and everyone nodded. wet and heavy now but swaying in the strong wind. swirled together and became clear and bright. and the nameless one's aura was blacker than the starless stormy sky.332 vast white noise like the endless hissings of a million crazy snakes. he felt the rhythm of the event and allowed a brief empty space of white noise and after that long brief moment said: "Yes. He crouched down as if preparing to pounce even though he knew he would not pounce. but he did not seem to want to shoot anyone. with more friction. empty and full. and nobody seemed to think that he did. that's him. And the whitenoise of the rain became a silence (which Arthur noticed where he stood on the outside of the crowd ((where if the mob were a cell the cell membrane would be)) and wondered: how many other sounds . They stood there staring and he stood there smiling with his eyes hidden behind his sunglasses and Ash watched as all of the people moved slowly towards him. and Ash felt then something like electricity in the air and the hairs on the back of his neck went up. He was not nervous. but he crouched down as if to do so. down at his sides. there were other reasons for St. And the people began to slither and seethe and it made Ash afraid but he did not quail. less light. And even though everyone knew that it was him. not long by clock time but long in the souls of the listeners.. one in each hand. all of those colors. so he did. who knew. increasing heat. scintilla leaping from of his teeth as the light fell on him through the budding trees. and rubbing into each other as before but more slowly. Nick Deville to ask Stevie: Is that him? and for Stevie to say: Yes. He had two guns. and all of their auras."Is that him?" There was a long empty space.. He smiled at the sight of them.

The nameless one smiled at them. all around the plaza and all through the city – and everyone knew that this was the sign. how it seemed so As if for a sign. policemen in uniform. Tense with anticipation the crowd took a collective breath. contemplating him who was such a different human creature than they. So they waited. struck him hard on the head and he fell.. Like a lowercase jesus. One came: Lightning struck the stage sending off a giant shower of sparks like fireworks. Two men came out from the crowd. Everyone felt this different sense of time now.333 are out there that we make into silence through some automism of our consciousness. the lamps along the lawn and the street. how many sounds made silence to write future sounds upon have there been? How many will there be?). then turned back and. They took their nightsticks out. the lights go out – on the stage. and he stood awaiting communion and he also thought them quite different. Ash's eyes adjusted. very eerie and eerily calm like the eye of a hurricane and it reminded Ash of the time when he'd been learning about birth by watching the moon and the moon had disappeared into the darkness and though brief it seemed to last a very long time. The policemen stood before him for a moment. They turned and looked each other in the face and nodded. . how it stretched out. And then there was another silence and the crowd was still for a moment. full of intense nothingness. the storefronts. a deafening boom shaking the ground and the trees. how it made them wait. The crowd approached the nameless one in one great mass and the nameless one dropped his guns and held his hands out reaching side to side like a t. swinging at the same time..

save some bloodstains on people's clothes and bodies. There was howling and screaming and some thing like laughter. 60. and to children to play with as toys. drowned in them as they grabbed him and beat him and bit him and tore him apart.334 After which they moved for him in a great rush and he disappeared. the rainbow and the phantom of the rainbow with its specter spectrum. The ground was muddy and the streets were wet and gleaming in the slanted morning sunlight. and a few of his bones. toss it in front of himself and hit it with a big bone that he was carrying. The next morning there was a rainbow in the prisming shunya sky. reminding all who saw them of the colorous curvature of a world so often mistaken for straight and grey. . which were given to dogs to chew on. stopping occasionally to pick up a pebble. A human femur. Happy. Everything was steaming in the heat. It would not be long before there was nothing left of him. * Big Mike and Father Montoya were sitting on the old stone bench outside San Miguel's. The crazy old woman sat smiling on the wet grass. The blood ran down the gutters with the water from the rain. It was five hundred years old today but nobody knew. A child walked by. serene and serenely joyous. a double. Quiet.

"There's two of em. And they had seen the old church collapse into mud and rise again in the wee hours before dawn right around when the power came back on and the lights came back to life." the priest said. and Mike was in charge of rounding up work crews. The man on the other end had told Mike that he would get the funding he’d sought. Mike's phone rang again. "it is a double. As with the rainbow. "Yes.335 The night before they had seen the church reduced to a featureless mound of mud by the hard rain. or had. Both Big Mike and Father Montoya agreed that this was a good symbol indeed. on the ." Big Mike said. so he'd been calling everyone he could think of and telling them to call everyone that they could think of so that they could all get as many people as possible to divide into work crews for reconstruction. He'd been talking all night and through the early morning to various people about resurrecting the city." "That's a good symbol. with the pews and the altar buried under the mound and only the rojo profundo Christ standing there rising out of the mud and all through the night it had seemed like it was reaching in the rain. That is a good symbol indeed." "Yes. He also received calls from volunteers who lived. they’d witnessed the old church resurrecting itself out of its own ruination." And they sat there quietly feeling very tired but very alive as the steam rose from the ground as if the world were freshly Created. nodding.

see where things took him. Death appreciated this. Chris too slept in. She slept in that morning. and as a show of appreciation he gave Bobby his own motorcycle and a sweet leather jacket with a big skull on it. After rounding up the souls that had died in the fires – there'd been seven of them – he and Death went to the plaza for the soul of the nameless one and then took all of the souls back to the twomb after which they had lunch and drank beers. which had been hit the hardest by the fires. * . This was definitely the best job he'd ever had. Maybe Granny's not so bad after all. * But Bobby had another job and was already doing his part in cleaning up after the night's chaos. although at one point he got up and went to the kitchen for a drink of water and noticed that there were drunken bikers sleeping all over the floors and furniture. Father Montoya had pledged to help also which was good because he knew so many people and often brought out the best in them. had drunk more whiskey the night before than she usually did.336 west side. Things were going well. with limes. Bobby never went back to Celia. * Granny had not been among the dead. The only person Mike hadn't been able to reach was Bobby Ojaque. he thought to himself. Corona. Everyone they'd talked to had shown great enthusiasm. he’d decided to just call it quits and live on the road. and that she would be impressed by his new job and forgive him his wayward ways. And he laughed. despite the fact that he had limes unlimited now. what Death had in store.

Pagluica and Lagos had watched it grow that night. * Arthur was in the tub reading The Spider's House while Maya slept quietly in the bedroom. a lazy complacency like postcoital languor. Nick Deville had left the party at Granny's house sometime around dawn. I thought there was no possible explanation for having someone else’s blood on my underpants. (Some people woke up really hungover with no idea what had really happened. For the first time in a long time he'd had good dreams. Sometime after dawn it bore fruit.”) Sometime around dawn FEMA and the National Guard began to arrive. a tree had sprouted and grown up from among the ruins. He thought St. into a cave among the evergreens. They dubbed it the Tree of Knowledge. and when they finally did get up they were not in do rush to do anything. St. Supposedly the president was also coming to town. * And at the library. after which they decided to give up their old lives and move up into the Sangre De Cristos. to give a speech. . The town was in ruins. Blitzen. and some special investigators from the FBI and Homeland Security. Nick Deville said he knew of a friend's house where they could crash (Stevie's house had been on the west side and had burnt down).337 Stevie Salazar and St. They hadn't slept together. Stevie thought that someday he might like to get some snakeskin boots like that. but the madness was over. It had grown so fast that you could watch it grow climbing serpentine up through the ruins and the air and into the sky. You could feel it in the air. Everyone slept late that day. Nick was pretty cool: he had these kickass snakeskin boots. only slept together. some of which fell to the ground and was eaten by the three men. where they lived happily ever after. When people told them they were like: “I was there? Shit.

. Some other guy’s trying to work out a deal with some o' the big insurance companies for more funding. It burned down. he heard that familiar knock. I did get another job. And the best part of all: Finnegan would not be coming over because he had to work today." Arthur said. walking right past Arthur with a "Toppa tha marnin!" to the refrigerator which he opened up and began nosing around in. Or reconstruction.338 But Arthur really didn't care about all that. all the houses that burnt and shit. a warm bath. He doesn’t do anything. they got whatsisname. Try and make sense of it. "It's not there anymore. But we don't start for a day or three. FEMA and the FBI and Homeland Security gotta check everything out first. "That housepainting job? At that house? Today?" "Yeah. as was his wont. Later. to round up work crews to rebuild the city.Big Mike. "I thought you had work today.. when Arthur had gotten out of the bathtub and was brewing some coffee.. But then he did.. What job?" "I could really go for a sandwich. A construction job. But that Mike Brown’s a complete jackass." "What?" "The house isn't there anymore. though – you got any meat?" "No. .. a good book and someone to love. and so Finnegan came right in. and the door wasn't locked. He was just glad to have found some peace and quiet. The government's setting up a program.. Some house-painting job. Thank god. kind of pleading. But so we don't have to work until the money gets lined up and the ." Finnegan said.

" "Relax." Finnegan said. They build character. got his milk mug out of the microwave. resigned. professor. went to the couch." Arthur sighed. * St. sat down and turned on the t. What I do have is company. she was puffy-eyed from sleep and the lack thereof. poured some coffee into it. "Whereza bread at?" "In the cabinet. she went back into her bedroom and closed the door." "Good fucking luck. Whu --" "Who." Arthur laughed.339 government figures out exactly what happened. and. They walked into the living room. Nick's friend was a scraggly drugged-out white chick. right? Anyway though I only got like a day or two of freedom left. "You want the couch or the floor?" Deville asked Stevie. maybe you should go get breakfast at Cafe Ole or something." . I'm just saying. I like hard surfaces. taking a block of cheddar cheese out of the refrigerator. She said "hey" disaffectedly when she let them in. "I know. "I don't mind the floor. Maya?" "None of your business.v. You got any booze?" "No.

" "Yeah. The remote control was right next to him on the floor so he picked it up and clicked the t.? I can't sleep without the t. Nervously." Deville said.. to the government at least.v. Nick was joking. on." "Fine." Stevie said. as questions. Nick watched but both listened as they lay there on their backs with their eyes closed. "Man I'm pooped.v. and radio stations. webzines and blogs. But he wanted the couch. finally giving us good reason to ignore the moral and ethical ridiculousness of things like the Bill of Rights so that we can control ." he said.. and the president of the United States was standing on the stage where Stevie and St. Nick had just so recently been." Deville said. Even the threat of terrorist evil with its false prophets and its insidious Gooey Bombs has come as a blessing. riddles or tricks. It was all reporters from various newspapers. And they lay down on the couch and the floor. we come by faith in strange ways. Stevie asked: "Can we turn on the t. And the president spake thus: “. The scene on the screen was of the plaza. and sometimes blessings come in different forms. And there’s two kindsa volks in the world: those who can recognize a blessing and those who can’t. on.v.v. t. "Okay. Neither Stevie nor St. There was a large audience but none of them were people from the city. "I'll take the couch.Like I said. The president was already speaking.340 Stevie could not tell if St.

. Arthur chuckled cryptically. during which he laughed heartily with his hand over his belly. Arthur said: “But I don’t think it’s the president. but. after a moment or two the president said: “Now then – you. with the reporters murmuring quietly but excitedly among themselves. “The president’s giving a press conference.. “What’s this?” she asked..” * Maya came and sat down on the couch next to Arthur. on earth.” then you couldn’t tell if he was pausing for effect or trying to remember what he was going to say. eventually.341 everyone and everything in America and. but..” after which there was relative quiet.. After a minute.” After which there was a brief silence of shock and incredulity before the press exploded into a drooling frenzy. the president said: “Everybody calm down or I’ll have you arrested. And he just said the F-word. there’s a much bigger story out there. The president said: “Like I said there’s two kinda people.” Finnegan said. Then. Which would be much easier if it weren’t for the fucking counterforce.” Maya said.” And a voice asked: “What is this ‘counterforce?’ And did you take any ‘medicine’ to help you get up this morning?” The president said: “You know.” “Looks like him.

I can feel it. saying: “Things are gonna change.” And then he turned into a giant butterfly and flew away. .342 He ended up quoting his father.

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