All the pain and hunger had passed away now. He listened to the city.
Sometimes the afternoons blazed themselves away; today it was cold and the dimness hung softly in the corners. He thought he could hear people talking on the street below, so he went to the window, and peered out. Rustling by, the people walked. They wore overcoats. A man was smoking a cigar, and the smoke preened upward. Well, he thought, she’s not there, she’s not out there today. Today was her day of rest and meditation. She would sit quietly with folded hands and stare at a single green leaf—or a dog’s hair or a frog’s eyeball—for hours. Then she would raise her skirt, look at her legs, her smooth thighs, and smile that half-formed, strange smile. With her pale eyes. Looking at herself. He left his room, into the sheltered hallway with the worn carpet on the floor, and the sound of the landlady's voice shrieking upstairs. The street was quiet except for the cold clanging of the streetcars. The people were hurried and he was one of them, going through the city.
“Do you like Stefan?”
“No, I dont.”
“I think he’s a little small.”
He passed on.
Coyotes lived in the desert. Among the purple buttes.
“My sir, I am interested in logs today, old ones, with many rings.”
“If I had a log, I would give you one.”
He passed on; dont insult me with your sneering look.
His reflection caught in a store window swept past his eye: a glassy figure tangled among the cacophony of displays, one foot on a plaster dog, the other descending on the buttocks of a sitting manikin.
Here was her house. First he walked by it, without looking, to see if he could.
He could, so he walked back, slowly this time, peering at the high green shrubs blocking his view. What a high-class district this was, the houses big, well built, overhung, sprawled, with smoke curling like women’s long pony-tails up from the chimneys. This was chimney weather. The gray fog clung close to the ground, the gray sky did not move. He moved. He peered through the shrubs. Here was a high wooden fence, but he was young and well built, with long arms of which he was very proud. The wood smelled of dampness, like the inside of a woman’s thighs. There was no perfume, but the musky odor, and slivers like icicles on the rough wood. He slid through the shrub, next to the fence: a space between the two about a foot wide. Looking through the shrub, at the street, he could barely see the cars closed up and stumbling on their ways. He smiled, watching, the shrub green.
He turned his attention to the fence; he could climb it rather easily.
But now he heard singing, over the wall; she was singing over there. He did not like her singing, although her voice was soft and sweet, fluted. She was sitting by her little pond now, he knew, each tiny foot outstretched and dipped into the water; red and yellow darts of fish nibbled at her toes. Her hands would be on her knees, and she would be half stretched, half reclining, alone.
Hunger in his eyes. Hunger in mine eyes. A smell of perfume rose from the wood.
He remembered a day when he had touched her hair; or was it—this could be so—a doll’s hair?
He had held something on his knee; perhaps it was her. Or, then, a doll, with a waxen figure, plump like a baby. If it was her, he had taken unknown liberties with her, he had put his hand on her knee, his hand on her belly, his lips on her ear. If it had been her. Perhaps not.
Nights were very dark and he longed for the desert nights that were flat and wide-pressed. Coyotes lived in the dark like slinking sand dunes. The wind made the sand blow into the air even as it touched her hair, blowing it into the air.
“When I had a baby....”
But I never had a baby.
A silver moon was missing.
He had seen it dip into the stars.
He put his cheek against the fence; but he must climb it, so he stretched his long, proud arms and his fingers curled over the hard-squared edge of the fence. He did not wish to look at life through a hedge. The street seen through a hedge was green. A girl seen through a hedge was only half seen. He did not like shadows seen through hedges. He pulled himself up the fence, until his eyes leveled with and peered over its top.
A green land, smooth and clear. Green to his eyes. She was wearing a yellow dress.
Her bare feet were in the pond.
To touch her toes.
To bite them!
He gritted his teeth. The day was early.
He put his chin on the fence top; she was looking closely at a palm frond, a piece of one, held on her dress between her knees.
Carefully and clumsily he pulled himself up until jack knifed over the edge, the edge hurting his belly, and then dropped (half fell) to the ground. The grass was cold and he could feel the dark ground still wet. His body hurt him and for a moment all he did was feel the aches and small noises that bubbled in his belly. He looked up. She was there and her ankles were pretty. There were ripples in the pond around her feet. She had not seen him, could see only the frond, the green knives of a palm tree, held in her lap.
To push one of those into his belly. To feel it suck.
Merely to look at her was not satisfactory; not any more. He would have moved, but then she moved, before him, as he lay there half-risen off the ground. He watched her stand, the yellow dress falling in a billow around her legs, the frond still held in one hand. As she stood in the pond the billow of her dress touched the water and grew dark around the hem. The darkness floated upwards and clouds moved before the sun. As he crouched there he saw one hand, white and slim, with those gentle, slow movements, touch her neck, with a sort of music, the sway of a voice, the undoing of the clasp which undid the dress, sending him painfully to the ground, watching now the yellow dress becoming shapeless as it slipped into a huddle upon the water, growing darker. She stood there white and slim with the green frond musing upon her chin. She seemed to be studying the air before her eyes with a sort of calm puzzlement. She moved her head back and forth, and her body swayed a little too. His mouth had become dry and furry. An animal, he thought, is dwelling in my mouth. A small field animal with teeth as white as her body. Chiseled into those lines. A snort in his throat. A derangement in his eyes. He stood up.
He was conscious of rising above the ground; of the grass falling away. He knew the day was cool with the threat of warmth and that she was not looking at him, but had seen him, and her hands were laughing at him as they touched her body in places he would not have dared to look. The darkness of her there; the glowing brightness of her here.
He cursed in a silent, whimpering voice, and she laughed suddenly at that. He was moving towards her, not conscious of movement, a sort of gliding of the ground past him as her features grew and then, near her now, the sudden toss of her face so her eyes sparkled darkly at him, and her red lips pulled back from her teeth. He could see a pink tongue and the paler pink of her nipples. He shut his eyes. Not seeing, listening now, he heard someone else approach with crunching steps, slow. He could hear the giggles of the girl and the sound of a bird flying in the air. He listened for the ocean but could hear only the pond. There was no spray in the air. There was the silence now except for the two breaths of the two people now somewhere in front of him. He had no desire to open his eyes; he wanted only to step forward, and feel the lean touch of her body against his. Whoever had approached would have to move away, with those same steps falling upon the grass.
He opened his eyes; a woman was there smiling at him.
She was the sort of gray haired lady who should sit in a chair with a teacup in her hand. His lashes fell half closed and he studied her, the gray clothes wellfitted, the gray eyes, the gray hair tied in a neat gray bun at the nape of her graying neck; the opening of her uncolored lips and the sudden revealing of the cliffs of teeth and the black gulf of her mouth; the trodding of black shoes laced high up her ankles supporting her calves hidden under the gray dress which held close to her stout form; she standing there with the smaller naked girl beside her, white and pink, feet now out of the pond where still lying (soaked into darkness) the shapeless mass of a once-yellow dress sluggish and impotent; seeming to him to be one with the woman who seemed sluggish and impotent merely in the air, who would probably turn soft and wrinkled and slowly shred away in the water.
“My daughter has been expecting you,” she said.
The daughter looked up and smiled. Her body was facing him.
He tried to smile too but his head lowered.
“I thought I heard voices out here,” she said. “Wont you come to the table?”
At the small round table were three chairs and three cups from which rose three delicate wisps of steam. He felt the girl’s arm slide into the crook of his arm, feeling the jump of his heart, the unexpected heat of her flesh. She led him (as if he were leading her) to the table, and they sat, surrounding each other, the green short grass all around them.
“Well,” the woman said. “My daughter has told me so much about you.”
“Yes,” he said.
“Drink some tea, wont you?" said the woman.
“Yes,” said the girl. “Have some tea. Be careful. It's hot. If you drink it too fast youll scald your tongue. Hold it by the handle. Bring it to your lips. Tip it,” she said as he lifted the teacup and sipped from it feeling its taste bitter and hot. “No sugar,” he said. “No,” said the girl, “no sugar, not here.” And she was smiling at him and beginning to breathe heavily, her breasts rising and falling, he watching fascinated as each time the tiny pink nipples came closer and closer to the tabletop until—as his eyes widened taking her in and the woman in who also had lifted her cup—until they touched the top and seemed to fold back into the softer flesh which surrounded them. The woman suddenly dropped her cup and the girl stopped breathing and he jerked his gaze to the shards of the cup and the spreading tide of the tea. “Dear, dear me,” said the woman, whipping out with incredible speed a white handkerchief. Moved by some passion of chivalry perhaps (or perhaps with despair at the size of the handkerchief which didnt look big enough to sop up tears let alone tea) he put a restraining hand forward to stop her, and she looked up at him, the pleasure unhid, as he reached a hand back into his pocket for a handkerchief which, as his hand felt around in the pocket, he suddenly realized he did not have; and her unhid pleasure turned to hid scorn; and the girl with the laughing now face and the body that shivered to her laughter and the flush of the tide of red that crept like spilt blood over his face—“Wait a minute,” he said—and in that moment tore off his shirt in movements which seemed to him to take only a fraction of a second and slopped the shirt down on the tea on top also of the broken cup, saying now, with scorn too, “There, look at that.” The woman stopped scorning and smiled and the girl stopped laughing and threw her arms wide behind her and said, “Splendid!” almost with a sort of joy. He grinned too, his chest with his breath rising and falling in the naked air. He saw the shirt slowly grow dark with the spread of the tea. In a moment he picked it up and threw it with perfect accuracy into the pond where it joined in shapeless confusion with the drifted dress.
“You are too kind,” said the woman. “I am sorry there is no more tea.”
“Yes,” he said, “yes.”
“Would you like a palm knife?” said the girl.
She had the green things in her hand. They had spiny, purple points. Her hand looked delicate holding them. They looked delicate held in her hand. He was feeling reckless.
“Sure,” he said. “Yes.”
She had long fingers finely formed and she tore one blade off for him. The woman looked on immensely pleased, brimming with pleasure. The girl took one off the stem for herself.
“It's a fine day,” she said.
“It’ll be warm later,” he said.
“But it is so fine now,” the woman said, getting up. “Would you like to stroll around the garden?”
They rose and the girl again had her arm crooked in his; now the point of the frond he could feel playing against the inside of his arm where he was trapped by her. It was sharp, and he slapped at it, but the girl only laughed and dug it in deeper.
“Come along,” said the woman.
They went by the pond; it was dirty now with the faded colors of the dress and shirt. He could see silver bellies of dead fish bobbing on the surface of the water. Weeds waved green and sibilant poking through the pond and joining with the grass short cut. “Take off your shoes,” said the girl; “it's so much fun to walk with your shoes off." So he bent down and she let loose of his arm and he untied his shoes and kicked them off. He looked up at her as he took off his socks, at her flanks, her thighs, the breasts high above, the chin that seemed to shrug below her merry eyes. He stood. She laughed and moved her hand across his chest. She made him stand still, and he stood there uneasily, but pleased that she should ask him, and she took that frond with the sharp purple point and pressed it into the exact center of his chest; the pain sharpened him but he did not move. “Now,” she said, standing back; “do the same to me.” His movements now were slow and his arms were heavy. He frowned, because he didnt want his palm frond to touch her, he did not want her too to feel the sharp pain she had made him feel. The woman craned her head between them and smiled and said, “Go ahead, young man. Go ahead,” and the girl tilted back her chin and presented her chest to him. He started to mumble things to himself, shaking his head, as a dog shakes off water, moving that needle-sharp green thing until its purple point was touching the skin between her breasts. She stopped breathing; her mouth held half open and drops of sweat starting out on her forehead. “Hurry,” she whispered, as if in a kind of immobile agony. Her nose seemed to spread and her eyes curled into tight knots. He pressed the point into her. It seemed to go a long ways, and, frightened, he pulled it out. A drop of red blood welled forth, and almost immediately the skin puckered around it and turned purple. She let out a terrific sigh, her chest seeming to collapse (as if, he thought, he had let out through that puncture the air in her lungs), the breath going out, her face relaxing, and then rising again and suddenly laughing.
“Wonderful!” she cried, dancing away.
“Wait!” He tried to follow her.
She was off across the grass. He was heavy running across the grass. The woman was gray clapping her hands.
“Whoops!” cried the girl. She spun around at tree. He spun too, feeling for a moment her hand under his. She held her arms out as she ran, and her body wobbled and swayed wildly, yet possessed a grace, a sleekness.
“Wont you hurry?”
“Wait for me!”
She suddenly stopped and faced him her eyes mock-serious and her hand held forth holding the frond, point forward.
He halted. She lunged forward, and he dodged her. The gray woman was nowhere to be seen. The garden was dark now the sun having fallen behind a gray cloud which reminded him both of the woman and of the soggen clothes in the pond. The girl came at him again, intent and mock-serious, and he sidestepped her, her slim, white body going past him, then whirling to face him again. Her body now was still and straight, a kind of terribleness in it, the heat in his chest, the feel still of that tiny sharp point on him. Her hair had fallen wildly around her neck and shoulders and partly hid her face. He stared at her eyes, and the mock seriousness now was gone, and the gleaming intentness was there, which leadened his body, so he could hardly move. He was hypnotized by those eyes. She came forward slowly. The trees arched over her. Her feet made no noise on the grass and his feet now were cold. There was coldness in the air. Her breasts were small and her flanks narrow. Her eyes were intent upon him as he stood there, mouth open, the taste of tea on his tongue, his own sharp frond held in his lax hand. He could say nothing now. There was only the cold intent settling down on her naked cold features. The point advanced. He could see it sharp and purple. She was so close he could see the hair on her forehead, each hair damp with her sweat and then felt now the touch of the green dagger on his belly, which he sucked inward, feeling the point follow, now unable to breathe, let his belly out; then, unable to hold it in any longer, unable also to back away, he let his belly out, and at the same time she stepped forward and her arm thrust; and as he saw her pale eyes that did not blink, did not change from that cold intent expression, and her lips clenched together, he felt the suck and gape of the thing going into him, releasing a gush of warmth that coursed down his stomach to his groin and ran bubbling and hot down his leg; the sudden spread of red on her hand and a sudden blotch of red on the grass that was green and faintly damp his hand moving up by reflex and not-intent until the green frond in his hand was held too against her belly; she let go of her own weapon; her arms hung limp to her sides and she seemed to open herself up to him, gazing into his eyes, her eyes suddenly turning soft and unhappy, and she stepped forward, his arm braced as she went straight into the sucking point that pierced, the purple point first, then the green, into her, sucking the blood out so hers too coursed down her belly, her thighs, her legs.
He stared at her. Her hair was wild and beautiful.
They fell together, helpless, to the grass, on their own blood.
He could feel her body under him and see her eyes and the helpless mouth half-open. Her eyes were painful and soft.
“Love me,” she whispered.
NOTES: This story was clearly written in the throes of adolescence. Other than that, it was an experiment in form, in the question of sur-reality, expressionism, part of my (continuing) struggle to find a way to describe an indecipherable world.