June 2013

Dead Cat

Bartholomew placed the paintbrush down and picked up his cup of whiskey. Outside the light bled across the damp landscape. He could hear Beth in the kitchen, moving pots and pans, the kitten mewing between the debris on the floor.

It was half past four and he wondered why she was getting supper ready so early, then remembered that there was no electricity and that they would need to eat and cook and bed before sundown. There would be snow that evening, he hoped, and Bart and Beth would watch it fall from beneath blankets. A skylight slanted above them: each flake an individual for just a nanosecond then melting to slush, joining forces with each and every other ice star out there.

They ate lamb chops and fried spinach. After supper, they sat on the damp couch, fragmented in the broken flicker of the candle flame. She murmured into his shoulder, then for some reason, began to cry. He comforted her and after a while – when it was polite and when he could take it no more – patted her on the shoulder and stood to go to bed. The little cat jumped onto the carpet, then took its claws and racked them through the arm of the suede couch. Beth swore violently and the cat yelped when hit.

He woke up in the morning and stamped his feet to get the blood to the blue tips of his toes. The linoleum oozed with cold sweat, an internal sea of dew that beaded as the morning temperature rose.

There, in the middle of the kitchen, between a box of newspaper-wrapped dishes, was the kitten. Its legs froze out and its mouth stopped in frozen mew.

He leant over very slowly to prod it, as if the kitten would bite him if he moved too fast. Prod, prod. The mouth stayed open in bleat: a pink hole ringed in tiny shark teeth.

The Dead-Dress-Lady

The Dead-Dress-Lady

The dress was beautiful, but I can’t buy vintage. I turned to Kate. “I can’t buy it. There’s bound to be a dead person trapped in this, this …” I tucked the delicate chiffon neckline back into the collar of the garment. Outside polluted, violet winter of the dry city. In the dress, a garden verdant. Dense drone of bees that randomly choose individuals: lacerated skin like the skein of pattern over the bust.

“But you go to the lady… the, the lady?”

The lady lived on the seventh level of an art deco apartment block, gone to ruin. Too, the cut menace of lines on her face. Her smile stitched up. I handed her the dress. She took and it said, “Come back on Tuesday.” I don’t like Tuesdays, but I agreed.

On Tuesday I visited her and she said the dress was clean. It was. Just one time, only one time, at a garden party when Mike leant over and grabbed Chessie, and pulled her from a smock of bees that laced over a clover patch and said, “Cheska, come” and the waist binding tighter on my hot skin.

Brilliant Air

Brilliant Air

Brilliant comes from the word to shine, and it’s well used for diamonds. A cut. Today the trees turn silver green as they die. And the sky above cuts with brilliance. Even the hadedas have turned a steel shiver, knifing beaks to wound earth. A lone cat lopes through the garden, white stomach swinging as he trots across. An open window rattles with wind. Inside he goes and is gone. The hadeda continues; the white ibis has left town already. Yesterday at a rooftop bar, crescent moon and the V of the departing crowd, streaming upstairs to Africa’s long field of summer.