Direktlänk till inlägg 23 maj 2011

in the other direction

Av debbyhanxu debbyhanxu - 23 maj 2011 04:19

The interior of Burger Bliss is so bright that his fingernails, with their big mauve moons, gleam and the coins he puts down in payment seem cartwheels of metal. Beyond the lake of light, unfriendly darkness. He ventures out past a dimmed drive‑in bank and crosses the bridge. High slender arc lamps on giant flower stems send down a sublunar light by which the hurrying cars all appear purple. There are no other faces but his on the bridge. From the middle, Brewer seems a web, to which glowing droplets adhere. Mt. Judge is one with the night. The luminous smudge of the Pinnacle Hotel hangs like a star. Gnats bred by the water brush Rabbit's face; Janice's desertion nags him from within, a sore spot in his stomach. Ease off beer and coffee. Alone, he must take care of himself. Sleeping alone, he dreads the bed, watches the late shows, Carson, Griffin, cocky guys with nothing to sell but their brass. Making millions on sheer gall. American dream: when he first heard the phrase as a kid he pictured God lying sleeping, the quilt‑colored map of the U.S coming out of his head like a cloud. Peggy's embrace drags at his limbs. Suit feels sticky. Jimbo's Friendly Lounge is right off the Brewer end of the bridge, a half‑block down from Plum. Inside it, all the people are black. Black to him is just a political word but these people really are, their faces shine of blackness turning as he enters, a large soft white man in a sticky gray suit. Fear travels up and down his skin, but the music of the great green‑and‑mauve‑glowing jukebox called Moonmood slides on, and the liquid of laughter and tickled muttering resumes flowing; his entrance was merely a snag. Rabbit hangs like a balloon waiting for a dart; then his elbow is jostled and Buchanan is beside him. "Hey, man, you made it." The Negro has materialized from the smoke. His overtrimmed mustache looks wicked in here. "You didn't think I would?" "Doubted it," Buchanan says. "Doubted it severely." "It was your idea." "Right. Harry, you are right. I'm not arguing, I am rejoicing. Let's fix you up. You need a drink, right?" "I don't know, my stomach's getting kind of sensitive." "You need two drinks. Tell me your poison." "Maybe a Daiquiri?" "Never. That is a lady's drink for salad luncheons. Rufe, you old rascal." "Yazzuh, yazzuh," comes the answer from the bar. "Do a Stinger for the man." "Yaz‑zuh." Rufe has a bald head like one of the stone hatchets in the Brewer Museum, only better polished. He bows into the marine underglow of the bar and Buchanan leads Rabbit to a booth in the back. The place is deep and more complicated than it appears from the outside. Booths recede and lurk: darkwood cape‑shapes. Along one wall, Rufe and the lowlit bar; behind and above it, not only the usual Pabst and Bud and Miller's gimcracks bobbing and shimmering, but two stuffed small deer‑heads, staring with bright brown eyes that will never blink. Gazelles, could they have been gazelles? A space away, toward a wall but with enough room for a row of booths behind, a baby grand piano, painted silver with .one ofthose spray cans, silver in circular swirls. In a room obliquely off the main room, a pool table: colored boys all arms and legs spidering around the idyllic green felt. The presence of any game reassures Rabbit. Where any game is being played a hedge exists against fury. "Come meet some soul," Buchanan says. Two shadows in the booth are a man and a woman. The man wears silver circular glasses and a little pussy of a goatee and is young. The woman is old and wrinkled and smokes a yellow cigarette that requires much sucking in and holding down and closing of the eyes and sighing. Her brown eyelids are gray, painted blue. Sweat shines below the base of her throat, on the slant bone between her breasts, as if she had breasts, which she does not, though her dress, the blood‑color of a rooster's comb, is cut deep, as if she did. Before they are introduced she says "Hi" to Harry, but her eyes slit to pin him fast in the sliding of a dream.

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I ask but one hour of your time.” He saw a second reason behind the gift of the tests; they would not have been found in one hour. “If I should, albeit with the greatest reluctance—“ She divined, and interrupted in a low voice. “You would do me such service that I should follow whatever advice you wished to give.” “It must certainly be that we do not continue to risk—“ Again she entered the little pause he left as he searched for the right formality. “That—I understand. And that you have far more pressing ties.” The sun’s rays had disappeared after their one brief illumi­nation. The day drew to a chilly close. It was as if the road he walked, seemingly across a plain, became suddenly a brink over an abyss. He knew it as he stared at her bowed head. He could not say what had lured him on, what had gone wrong in his reading of the map, but both lost and lured he felt. Yet now committed to one more folly. She said, “I cannot find the words to thank you. I shall be here on the days I said.” Then, as if the clearing was her drawing room, “I must not detain you longer.” Charles bowed, hesitated, one last poised look, then turned. A few seconds later he was breaking through the further curtain of ivy and stumbling on his downhill way, a good deal more like a startled roebuck than a worldly En­glish gentleman. He came to the main path through the Undercliff and strode out back towards Lyme. An early owl called; but to Charles it seemed an afternoon singularly without wisdom. He should have taken a firmer line, should have left earlier, should have handed back the tests, should have suggested— no, commanded—other solutions to her despair. He felt outwitted, inclined almost to stop and wait for her. But his feet strode on all the faster. He knew he was about to engage in the forbidden, or rather the forbidden was about to engage in him. The farther he moved from her, in time and distance, the more clearly he saw the folly of his behavior. It was as if, when she was before him, he had become blind: had not seen her for what she was, a woman most patently dangerous—not consciously so, but prey to intense emotional frustration and no doubt social resentment. Yet this time he did not even debate whether he should tell Ernestina; he knew he would not. He felt as ashamed as if he had, without warning her, stepped off the Cobb and set sail for China. It wasn't my fault," he calls huskily, injustice a sieve in his throat. "Dad, he says it was my fault." "You baby, I didn't say that exactly." "You did. He did, Dad, and it wasn't." "All I said was he spun out too fast. He always spins out too fast. He flipped on a loose stone, now the headlight is bent under and it won't start." "If it wasn't such a cheap one it wouldn't break all the time." "It's not a cheap one it's the best one there is almost and anyway you don't even have any -" "I wouldn't take one if you gave it to me -' "So who are you to talk." "Hey, easy, easy," Harry says. "We'll get it fixed. I'll pay for it." "Don't pay for it, Dad. It wasn't anybody's fault. It's just he's so spoiled." "You shrimp," Billy says, and hits him, much the same way that three weeks ago Harry hit Janice, hard but seeking a spot that could take it. Harry separates them, squeezing Billy's arm so the kid clams up. This kid is going to be tough some day. Already his arm is stringy. Peggy is just bringing it all into focus, her insides shifting back from that kiss. "Billy, these things will happen ifyou insist on playing so dangerously." To Harry she says, "Damn Ollie for getting it for him, I think he did it to spite me. He knows I hate machines." Harry decides Billy is the one to talk to. "Hey. Billy. Shall I take Nelson back home, or do you want him to spend the night anyway?" And both boys set up a wailing for Nelson to spend the night. "Dad you don't have to come for me or anything, I'll ride my bike home in the morning first thing, I left it here yesterday." So Rabbit releases Billy's arm and gives Nelson a kiss somewhere around the ear and tries to find the right eye of Peggy's to look into. "Okey‑doak. I'll be off." She says, "Must you? Stay. Can't I give you supper? Another drink? It's early yet." "This guy's waiting," Rabbit lies, and makes it around her furniture to the door. Her body chases him. Her vague eyes shine in their tissuepaper sockets, and her lips have that loosened look kissed lips get; he resists the greedy urge to buy another box of Dots. "Harry," she begins, and seems to fall toward him, after a stumble, though they don't touch. "Yeah?" "I'm usually here. If‑you know." "I know. Thanks for the g.‑and‑t. Your view is great." He reaches then and pats, not her ass exactly, the flank at the side of it, too broad, too firm, alive enough under his palm, it turns out, to make him wonder, when her door closes, why he is going down the elevator, and out. It is too early to meet Buchanan. He walks back through the West Brewer side streets toward Weiser, through the dulling summer light and the sounds of distant games, of dishes rattled in kitchen sinks, of television muffled to a murmur mechanically laced with laughter and applause, of cars driven by teenagers laying rubber and shifting down. Children and old men sit on the porch steps beside the lead‑colored milk‑bottle boxes. Some stretches of sidewalk are brick; these neighborhoods, the oldest in West Brewer, close to the river, are cramped, gentle, barren. Between the trees there is a rigid flourishing of hydrants, meters, and signs, some of them ‑ virtual billboards in white on green directing motorists to superhighways whose number is blazoned on the federal shield or on the commonwealth keystone; from these obscure West Brewer byways, sidewalks and asphalt streets rumpled comfortably as old clothes, one can be arrowed toward Philadelphia, Baltimore, Washington the national capital, New York the headquarters of commerce and fashion. Or in the other direction can find Pittsburgh and Chicago. But beneath these awesome metal insignia of vastness and motion fat men in undershirts loiter, old ladies move between patches of gossip with the rural waddle of egg‑gatherers, dogs sleep curled beside the cooling curb, and children with hockey sticks and tape‑handled bats diffidently chip at whiffle balls and wads of leather, whittling themselves into the next generation of athletes and astronauts. Rabbit's eyes sting in the dusk, in this smoke of his essence, these harmless neighborhoods that have gone to seed. So much love, too much love, it is our madness, it is rotting us out, exploding us like dandelion polls. He stops at a corner grocery for a candy bar, an Oh Henry, then at the Burger Bliss on Weiser, dazzling in its lake of parking space, for a Lunar Special (double cheeseburger with an American flag stuck into the bun) and a vanilla milkshake, that tastes toward the bottom of chemical sludge.


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