Direktlänk till inlägg 23 maj 2011

an expectant shimmer

Av debbyhanxu debbyhanxu - 23 maj 2011 04:15

I don't know, Ollie used to keep things like that, but when we moved I think it all stayed with him." She and Ollie Fosnacht had lived in an asbestos‑shingled semi‑detached some blocks away, not far from the county mental hospital. Ollie lives in the city now, near his music store, and she and the kid have this apart­ment, with Ollie in their view if they can find him. She is rum­maging in a low cabinet below some empty bookcases. "I can't see any, it comes in envelopes. How about gin and something?" "You have bitter lemon?" More rummaging. "No, just some tonic." "Good enough. Want me to make it?" "If you like." She stands up, heavy‑legged, lightly sweating, relieved. Knowing he was coming, Peggy had decided against sunglasses, a sign of trust to leave them off. Her walleyes are naked to him, her face has this helpless look, turned full toward him while both eyes seem fascinated by something in the corners of the ceiling. He knows only one eye is bad but he never can bring him­self to figure out which. And all around her eyes this net of white wrinkles the sunglasses usually conceal. He asks her, "What for you?" "Oh, anything. The same thing. I drink everything." While he is cracking an ice tray in the tiny kitchenette, the two boys have snuck out of Billy's bedroom. Rabbit wonders if they have been looking at dirty photographs. The kind of pictures kids used to have to pay an old cripple on Plum Street a dollar apiece for you can buy a whole magazine full of now for seventy‑five cents, right downtown. The Supreme Court, old men letting the roof cave in. Billy is a head taller than Nelson, sunburned where Nelson takes a tan after his mother, both of them with hair down over their ears, the Fosnacht boy's blonder and curlier. "Mom, we want to go downstairs and run the mini‑bike on the parking lot." "Come back up in an hour," Peggy tells them, "I'll give you supper." "Nelson had a peanut‑butter sandwich before we left," Rabbit explains. "Typical male cooking," Peggy says. "Where're you going this evening anyway, all dressed up in a suit?" "Nowhere much. I told a guy I might meet him." He doesn't say it is a Negro. He should be asking her out, is his sudden frightened feeling. She is dressed to go out; but not so dolled‑up it can't appear she plans to stay home tonight. He hands her her g.‑and‑t. The best defense is to be offensive. "You don't have any mint or limes or anything." Her plucked eyebrows lift. "No, there are lemons in the fridge, is all. I could run down to the grocery for you." Not entirely ironical: using his complaint to weave coziness. Rabbit laughs to retract. "Forget it, I'm just used to bars, where they have everything. At home all I ever do is drink beer." She laughs in answer. She is tense as a schoolteacher facing her first class. To relax them both he sits down in a loose leather armchair that says pfsshhu. "Hey, this is nice," he announces, meaning the vista, but he spoke too early, for from this low chair the view is flung out of sight and becomes all sky: a thin bright wash, stripes like fat in bacon. "You should hear Ollie complain about the rent." Peggy sits down not in another chair but on the flat grille where the radiator breathes beneath the window, opposite and above him, so he sees a lot of her legs ‑ shiny skin stuffed to the point of shapelessness. Still, she is showing him what she has, right up to the triangle of underpants, which is one more benefit of being alive in 1969. Miniskirts and those magazines: well, hell, we've always known women had crotches, why not make it legal? A guy at the shop brought in a magazine that, honestly, was all cunts, in blurred bad four‑color but cunts, upside down, backwards, the girls attached to them rolling their tongues in their mouths and fanning their hands on their bellies and otherwise trying to hide how silly they felt. Homely things, really, cunts. Without the Supreme Court that might never have been made clear. "Hey, how is old Ollie?"

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DAYS, pale slices between nights, they blend, not exactly alike, transparencies so lightly tinted that only stacked all together do they darken to a fatal shade. One Saturday in August Buchanan approaches Rabbit during the coffee break. They are part of the half‑crew working the half‑day; hence perhaps this intimacy. The Negro wipes from his lips the moisture of the morning whisky enjoyed outside in the sunshine of the loading platform, and asks, "How're they treatin' you, Harry?" "They?" Harry has known the other man by sight and name for years but still is not quite easy, talking to a black; there always seems to be some joke involved, that he doesn't quite get. "The world, man." "Not bad." Buchanan stands there blinking, studying, jiggling up and down on his feet engagingly. Hard to tell how old they are. He might be thirty‑five, he might be sixty. On his upper lip he wears the smallest possible black mustache, smaller than a type brush. His color is ashy, without any shine to it, whereas the other shop Negro, Farnsworth, looks shoe‑polished and twinkles among the printing machinery, under the steady shadowless light. "But not good, huh?" "I'm not sleeping so good," Rabbit does confess. He has an itch, these days, to confess, to spill, he is so much alone. "Your old lady still shackin' up across town?" Everybody knows. Niggers, coolies, derelicts, morons. Numbers writers, bus conductors, beauty shop operators, the entire brick city of Brewer. VERITY EMPLOYEE NAMED CUCKOLD OF WEEK. Angstrom Accepts Official Hornsfrom Mayor. "I'm living alone," Harry admits, adding, "with the kid." "How about that," Buchanan says, lightly rocking. "How about that?" Rabbit says weakly, "Until things straighten out." "Gettin' any tail?" Harry must look startled, for Buchanan hastens to explain, "Man has to have tail. Where's your dad these days?" The ques­tion flows from the assertion immediately, though it doesn't seem to follow. Rabbit says, puzzled, offended, but because Buchanan is a Negro not knowing how to evade him, "He's taking two weeks off so he can drive my mother back and forth to the hospital for some tests." "Years." Buchanan mulls, the two pushed‑out cushions of his mouth appearing to commune with each other through a hum; then a new thought darts out through them, making his mustache jig. "Your dad is a real pal to you, that's a wonderful thing. That is a truly wonderful thing. I never had a dad like that, I knew who the man was, he was around town, but he was never my dad in the sense your dad is your dad. He was never my pal like that." Harry hangs uncertainly, not knowing if he should commiser­ate or laugh. "Well," he decides to confess, "he's sort of a pal, and sort of a pain in the neck." Buchanan likes the remark, even though he goes through pep­pery motions of rejecting it. "Oh, never say that now. You just be grateful you have a dad that cares. You don't know, man, how lucky you have it. Just 'cause your wife's gettin' her ass looked after elsewhere don't mean the whole world is come to some bad end. You should be havin' your tail, is all. You're a big fella. " Distaste and excitement contend in Harry; he feels tall and pale beside Buchanan, and feminine, a tingling target of fun and ten­derness and avarice mixed. Talking to Negroes makes him feel itchy, up behind the eyeballs, maybe because theirs look so semi­liquid and yellow in the white and sore. Their whole beings seem lubricated in pain. "I'll manage," he says reluctantly, thinking of Peggy Fosnacht. The end‑of‑break bell rings. Buchanan snaps his shoulders into a hunch and out of it as if rendering a verdict. "How about it, Harry, steppin' out with some of the boys tonight," he says. "Come on into Jimbo's Lounge around nine, ten, see what dev­elops. Maybe nothin'. Maybe sumpthin'. You're just turnin' old, the way you're goin' now. Old and fat and finicky, and that's no way for a nice big man to go." He sees that Rabbit's instincts are to refuse; he holds up a quick palm the color of silver polish and says, "Think about it. I like you, man. If you don't show, you don't show. No sweat." All Saturday the invitation hums in his ears. Something in what Buchanan said. He was lying down to die, had been lying down 'for years. His body had been telling him to. His eyes blur print in the afternoons, no urge to run walking even that stretch of tempt­ing curved sidewalk home, has to fight sleep before supper and then can't get under at night, can't even get it up to jerk off to relax himself. Awake with the first light every morning regardless, another day scraping his eyes. Without going much of anywhere in his life he has somehow seen everything too often. Trees, weather, the molding trim drying its cracks wider around the front door, he notices every day going out, house made of green wood. No belief in an afterlife, no hope for it, too much more ofthe same thing, already it seems he's lived twice. When he came back to Janice that began the second time for him; poor kid is having her first time now. Bless that dope. At least she had the drive to get out. Women, fire in their crotch, won't burn out, begin by fight­ing off pricks, end by going wild hunting for one that still works. Once last week he called the lot to find out if she and Stavros were reporting for work or just screwing around the clock. Mildred Kroust answered, she put him on to Janice, who whis­pered, "Harry, Daddy doesn't know about us, don't ever call me here, I'll call you back." And she had called him late that after­noon, at the house, Nelson in the other room watching Gilligan's Island, and said cool as you please, he hardly knew her voice, "Harry, I'm sorry for whatever pain this is causing you, truly sorry, but it's very important that at this point in our lives we don't let guilt feelings motivate us. I'm trying to look honestly into myself, to see who I am, and where I should be going. I want us both, Harry, to come to a decision we can live with. It's the year nine­teen sixty‑nine and there's no reason for two mature people to smother each other to death simply out of inertia. I'm searching for a valid identity and I suggest you do the same." After some more of this, she hung up. Her vocabulary had expanded, maybe she was watching a lot of psychiatric talk shows. The sinners shall be justified. Screw her. Dear Lord, screw her. He is thinking this on the bus. He thinks, Screw her, and at home has a beer and takes a bath and puts on his good summer suit, a light gray sharkskin, and gets Nelson's pajamas out of the dryer and his toothbrush out of the bathroom. The kid and Billy have arranged for him to spend the night. Harry calls up Peggy to check it out. "Oh absolutely," she says, "I'm not going anywhere, why don't you stay and have dinner?" "I can't I don't think." "Why not? Something else to do?" "Sort of." He and the kid go over around six, on an empty bus. Already at this hour Weiser has that weekend up‑tempo, cars hurrying faster home to get out again, a very fat man with orange hair standing under an awning savoring a cigar as if angels will shortly descend, an expectant shimmer on the shut storefronts, girls clicking along with heads big as rose‑bushes, curlers wrapped in a kerchief. Saturday night. Peggy meets him at the door with an offer of a drink. She and Billy live in an apartment in one of the new eight‑story buildings in West Brewer overlooking the river, where there used to be a harness racetrack. From her living room she has a panorama of Brewer, the concrete eagle on the skyscraper Court House flaring his wings above the back of the Owl Pretzels sign. Beyond the flowerpot‑red city Mt. Judge hangs smoky‑green, one side gashed by a gravel pit like a roast begin­ning to be carved. The river coal black. "Maybe just one. I gotta go somewhere." "You said that. What kind of drink?" She is wearing a clingy palish‑purple sort of Paisley mini that shows a lot of heavy leg. One thing Janice always had, was nifty legs. Peggy has a pasty helpless look of white meat behind the knees.


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