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  • - * 13 DOORS OF X* *Meeah Williams* The Barking Cat Press * 2015 Brooklyn, NY * Seattle, WA copyright 2015 Meeah Williams/The Barking Cat...

Saturday, October 31, 2015

=envelope art=

=The Little Girl and the Very Deep Hole=

There was once a little girl who dug herself a very very very very very deep hole. No one had ever paid her much attention and she thought that by digging a very very very very very deep hole they would be sure to notice her. Well, at the very least they would notice her hole and shortly after that they were sure to notice her at the bottom of it.

So she took a shovel from her daddy's garage where all the garden tools were kept and she found a place in the yard that wasn't too conspicuous or too inconspicuous and where none of her mother's precious pretty flowers were growing and that wouldn't damage her daddy's all-important lawn and she started digging away. She dug all afternoon and into the night and all through the next morning, too. She kept right on digging for days and days and days. She probably slept at some point; common sense tells us that she must have eaten something; but when she slept or what she ate we can't say. Mostly she just dug
        and dug
                 and dug 
                                   and dug
and dug.

The question is asked: "Where did she put all the dirt that she dug as she dug? Surely there came a point when she could no longer just throw it out of the hole above her or it wouldn't have been a very deep hole. 

Well, fortunately for her (and us), these aren't the kinds of questions you have to answer in fairytales. Instead, you just dig. You don't worry about where the dug dirt goes.

The sun went up. 

The sun went down.

Stars twinkled above her.

And then they twinkled out.

She dug through her whole childhood. She dug through her teen years. Then she dug through her twenties and thirties. She kept right on digging until she lost track of how long she'd been digging altogether. That's the thing about digging. There is never any end to it. There is never a bottom to a hole. Wherever you stop is the bottom. And where she finally stopped it was pretty far down. When she looked up, she could blot out the whole sun with the tip of her forefinger. 

"This must be deep enough," she thought and waited. 

And waited and waited and waited and waited. She refused to call up from the bottom of her hole because that would defeat the whole purpose. What she wanted was to be found at the bottom of the hole. But no one was finding her.

Then she realized she'd made a very fundamental mistake. She'd brought the shovel with her. There it stood, stuck in the dirt where she left it when she stopped digging, two feet away. How was anyone going to dig her out of the hole if the shovel was down here with her? Even worse, what if someone saw the hole and thought it was just a hole and decided to fill it back in without looking first to see who might be at the bottom of it? Suddenly it occurred to her that what she might have actually dug by accident was her own grave!

Darnit! This hadn't been a very good idea at all, she began to think, with a frown. Somehow she'd gotten her fairytales all bollixed up. What she should have done was build a tower from which she could let her long hair down, not a tunnel underground. A tower gets you noticed by princes. A tunnel gets you cold and damp and crawled on by worms. No, this hadn't been a good idea at all.

Now at this point in a fairytale something unexpected and miraculous happens and everything turns out for the best. But not so much in this fairytale. By now the little girl wasn't little anymore and no longer a girl but a mature woman with long white hair and brittle yellow nails and a cracked voice that could hardly carry halfway up the incredibly deep hole she'd dug for herself even if she had been inclined to call for help at this late date which she wasn't. 

In fact, she'd grown used to the dank and the chill and the worms and the moles and the roots and the tiny dime-sized view of the world above that she could see through the other end of her hole the way you'd look at another planet miles and miles and miles away as if through the eyepiece of a telescope. So she stayed there and no one ever did notice her and eventually that was just fine with her because on the plus side no one ever bothered her either and she came to forget why she ever wanted to be noticed in the first place.

And that is pretty much the happiest way a story like this can ever end.

=100 pieces of garbage=

=100 pieces of garbage=

=100 pieces of garbage=

::An autobiography in trash::

Friday, October 30, 2015

=envelope art=

Art should be something like a good armchair in which to rest from physical fatigue. ---Henri Matisse
How utterly disdainful I used to be of statements such as those made by Matisse, who claimed that his art was meant to bring people ease and comfort. Art was not meant to be an avenue of escapism! Art, as far as I was concerned, was a take-no-prisoners endeavor with one purpose only. To really rub people's nose in it. To never let the audience forget, not for a single moment, just what a shitty horror existence was, a nightmare of inescapable suffering barely alleviated by temporary caesuras, that ultimately—and a lot sooner than one often expected—terminated in death and that death an oblivion that rendered everything we could ever do and feel in life irrelevant. If television and religion and sometimes even literature were pressed into service to produce fantasies designed to lure us into forgetfulness of these brutal facts of our existence, certainly pursuits such as art and philosophy shouldn't allow themselves to be so co-opted, certainly they were meant to bring us face to face with grim reality. 
Give me hopeless philosophies, fictions with no exits, and pictorial representation that cut away one's eyelids and pitilessly forced one to stare at life unmasked in all its paralyzing Medusan horror. That is what real art was for, dammit. It had no other purpose. That was my uncompromising position.
Now, I've come to think, it's more than enough just to be alive to understand how terrible life can be. What's the point of dwelling on it? What can be done about the horror, after all? A good five minute reflection upon opening your eyes in the morning will suffice, will take you as far as you need to go in that direction; indeed, as far as you can go along that route. No additional amount of brooding on the hopelessness, the tragedy of the situation will take you any further, will change a single thing about the conditions of our existence. It's good to remember the inescapable trap that we're in if only to dissuade us from wasting time we don't really have on stupidity, our own and others: we age, we sicken, and we die and so does everyone we love. But that much acknowledged, we  still have to get out of bed in the morning. 
So why not philosophies that make us feel better? Why not fictions that posit a way out, even if only in theory? Why not pictures that imagine a brighter, sunnier, happier world?  

Why not a cup of tea and a scone instead of a cup of gall  and a plate of maggots? Why not Matisse and his armchair art?

=The Dysphoric Vampire=

He was a bad vampire. For one thing, he was severely anemic, which is something  you could say of all vampires, I suppose. In his case, the problem was far, far worse. He claimed he hated the way the blood made him feel, all dirty and bloated and, well, as he put it, with a look of disgust on his gauntly handsome face…bloody alive. No matter how many times you told him how good-looking he was with a a litre or two inside him, he'd refuse to believe it. His was clearly a case of distorted body-image. What he imagined that he saw in the mirror wasn't what he looked like in real life—it was all in his head—and no amount of reassurance and confidence-building on my part could shake his self-delusion; in fact, part of the problem was that he cast no reflection at all. He spent hours locked in the bedroom standing in front of the full-length mirror staring at nothing whatsoever. I'd knock on the door begging him to open up, knowing what he was doing to himself. At midnight, I had to coax him to take the tiniest sips from my wrist just to keep him from wasting away to dust and bones. Later, I'd wake up in the wee hours before dawn and hear him retching in the toilet down the hall. 

Loving him was exhausting, more enervating than if he'd just sunk his fangs into my jugular and exsanguinated me completely once and for all. Oh, if only he'd been an ordinary vampire! I didn't know how to help him, but it wasn't for want of trying. Clearly I was in over my head. My friends all told me to leave him, but I still thought I could turn things around. I guess I should have seen it coming. The signs were all there from the start. But I was blind-sided all the same. One day I came home early from work and caught him dressed in one of my negligees. He was lying languidly on the chaise in the sunroom, the binds all drawn, trying so suck blood from the inside of his own elbow. I ran from the room in tears. For once he came after me, pursuing me through the house until he caught me, crouched among the ferns in the television room, sobbing my heart out. He explained as best he could that he was suffering from creature dysphoria. What the hell did that mean, I wanted to know. It meant that he considered himself a mortal man trapped inside a vampire's body. He wanted to go out in broad daylight like every other mortal human being. He wanted to be photographed. He wanted to drink orange juice instead of blood. For crissakes, he wanted to be a vegan! What could I say? It was preposterous! The more he explained, the more I could feel my love and patience shriveling away, replaced by disgust and cold contempt. Does that make me an awful person? I'm sorry. I couldn't help myself. I thought I was married to a vampire. I couldn't help but feel betrayed and deceived. I pitied him, yes, his predicament was awful. He quoted me the grim statistics. An alarming percentage of vampires in his situation ended up staked through the heart. But what about me? I had needs too! Didn't I deserve to be happy? 

We tried to make it work but after a while we couldn't ignore the writing on the wall. We split, as they say of celebrities in the news, mutually and amicably—at least on the surface. But speaking for me alone, I felt a deep well of bitterness and disgust and, I regret to say it, even rage that took ages to dissipate. For a long time I could almost have driven the stake through his undead heart myself. But life's too short to waste on eternal hatred. 

I still see him from time to time, pale, thin, walking gingerly down the street in the sun, pretending to be a normal mortal. He may be fooling everyone else, but he'll never fool me.I know who—and what—he really is. He seems happy enough and I don't begrudge him that. And, in truth, I guess I've mostly moved on, too. I've found someone else to love me properly and, believe it or not, so as he. To each his own, I guess. To me, he'll never be an honest-to-god real human being. No amount of prescription medication, surgery, or sunscreen will change that. But who am I to judge, right?   

=100 pieces of garbage=

::An autobiography in trash::

Thursday, October 29, 2015

=Cathedral of the I Forget Where Now=

=Geisha in the City of Death=

Forget what we’ve said up to now. Perhaps this is where the story should begin: in the prototypical darkened room, located in a boarding house, or in what was once a swank hotel from the end of the last century fallen into disrepair. It is the kind of room full of abandoned furniture from other places; beds that no one sleeps in anymore, lamps that no one lights. There is a painting on the wall, but it is too dark to see it, and even if it could be seen, it would draw no eye, painted, as it probably is, by a machine; it is a scene reproduced so many times it represents nothing in particular, a framed visual cliché executed entirely in thick shades of umber brown and sickly ochre.

In short: it is the kind of room in which someone may once have met a professional escort for unconventional sexual relations, or spent several days bingeing on alcohol or drugs, or hiding away from creditors, professional debt collectors, loan sharks, and the like, prosecutors of one sort or another, with or without the backing of the law. It is the kind of room to which a person retreats to "assess the situation," or simply to sit, staring at the wall or floor for uncounted hours on end, until the “situation cools,” but seldom, if ever, does he go anywhere near the window. 

Here such a person will take a time-out before returning to the world and facing whatever judgment awaits, or, as is sometimes the case, they may not return at all, making this room the scene of a Last Judgment, the site where the surrender is signed, and the sentence executed without further appeal.

What is paramount to note, above all, is the temporary and provisional nature of this sort of room, which can be anywhere, really, or just as easily nowhere, for temporality is the key here, wherever “here” happens to be, as no one can stay in such a room for long, put a name-plate on the door, have their mail delivered here.  Consequently, this room, like all such rooms, hardly go unnoticed by the police, who visit, or even, on occasion, inhabit them, on a fairly regular basis in pursuit or perpetuation of criminal activity.

Neena arrives by way of the stairs—the elevator, or lift as it might be more accurately called in this case—no longer in service (merely fallen into disrepair or deliberately sabotaged?). The stairwell she climbs is littered with beer cans and newspapers, syringes and used condoms and other urban detritus familiar to us from the usual depictions of this scene from innumerable movies and television dramas. Inevitably, one of the landings is inhabited by a hollow figure, huddled in a filthy overcoat of indeterminate color, a ripe and festering mound, alive with lice, from which no head rises to watch her silent passage.

Neena is in formal couture, wearing an elegant black cocktail dress, which leaves her shoulders glimmeringly naked; it is the kind of dress held up by her "natural endowments," although Neena is not particularly well-endowed, naturally, being but modestly developed, perhaps a 33 or 34B, if even that, and varying with her time of month. There is nothing unusual in any of this, nor do we mean to imply there is. The dress is not made out of velvet, but it might be mistaken to be velvet from a distance, and even close up, even to the touch. One imagines it must be some sort of special Vietnamese sweatshop blend.

In spite of her barely modest endowment, the décolletage of the dress nevertheless reveals the provocative cleavage formed by two plump breasts of flawless white flesh, pushed up by the hidden under-wiring of a specially constructed bodice built into the dress, which seems intended to suggest, and not merely vaguely, a selfless offering of first fruits, proffered with her own hands. 

It isn't the case, or perhaps it is, but Neena could be coming from an opening night concert at Lincoln Center, Mahler, maybe, or Dvorak on the program, neither of whom she likes, or would like, if she weren’t, in fact, mistaking them both for Liszt. She imagines she’d prefer Shostakovich, who she’s never heard, but whose story she has read about, and with whose struggles with love and Stalinism she feels some natural sympathy, or imagines she does.

If she has gone to that night’s performance at all it would be for the benefit of an absent companion. She would be wearing a pair of impossibly delicate high-heeled sandals, silver, with the thinnest sole possible and no ankle strap, thus easily lost in a scuffle, a Cinderella-situation waiting to happen. They would be the kind of almost-disposable shoes one wears once and never again, leaving one to wonder, but what one wonders in this context is too complex, or, rather too idiosyncratic, to untangle at the moment. Suffice it to say, she must not be planning on  walking very much or much longer, at all.

There is a small handbag over her left shoulder, no, her right shoulder, discouraging the use of her right hand, now that we have determined she is right-handed. It is a small handbag, approximately the size of a 4x6 inch postcard [seriously, Pinker, isn’t that too small? What would she be able to fit inside it, besides a postcard?), black, of course, no, silver again—make that of silver spangles, like a snakeskin, or a dragonskin(!). The bag is suspended from her shoulder by a silver link chain of intricate delicacy and Cabbalistic design.

Yes, the purse is indeed small, obviously, even pointedly, too small, but it is big enough to hold the most essential personal items: a tube of lipstick (scarlet, of course), a folded twenty-dollar bill, an unidentified key, and compact mirror. It also contains a foil package (empty) for a black, ultra-sensitive, ribbed condom, and a prescription bottle, an expired prescription bottle holding 150 Xanax tablets, each one milligram. The name on the smudged label is illegible, but whatever it might read, it clearly does not read “Neena.”

In the end, she will not need any of the aforementioned items in her purse, except, it’s still remotely possible, for the lipstick, which she may or may not use to freshen her mouth during the proceedings still to come.

Let’s just wait and see.

Read the complete novel here:

=2 from Richard C.=

=100 pieces of garbage=

::An autobiography in trash::

=100 pieces of garbage=

::An autobiography in trash::

=100 pieces of garbage=

::An autobiography in trash::

=100 pieces of garbage=

::An autobiography in trash::

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

=2 moons=

=Nothing to Nothing=

Well the plague rolled into town and I can’t say I minded too much. The population needed thinning in my humble opinion. Most of the people I ran across on a day-to-day basis were assholes—self-centered, narrow-minded, compassionless, I’d always said as much. Just because they were keeling over screaming in record numbers covered in black boils and running cankers didn’t miraculously make them better people. There, I’ve said it. I may not be a humanitarian, but I’m no hypocrite either. As luck would have it, I had my own antidote, distilled through a lifetime of solitude, which I shared with no one. I had enough for four people, in fact, but how did I know I wouldn’t need to save myself four more times? Look, the fact is, everyone has to invent their own cure, just like you have to find your own path to God, or pick your own nose, or whatever. Down at the Lion Head Pub, I was drinking alone when a stranger took the stool next to mine. He was a somber man, dressed as if for a funeral or a gig at a jazz club. He put a battered black case down at his feet. It was covered with faded stickers from various destinations around the world; from the roadmap on his face alone you could tell that he was very well traveled. He motioned for the bartender and asked for a club soda, just like any good alcoholic practicing his sobriety.  We sat there for a long time, side by side, saying nothing, sipping from our respective glasses in companionable silence. We stared up at the television mounted above the mirrored bottles: a soccer match from Europe, which the plague had spared, at least for now, was in its final seconds. No one had scored yet and it was clear that no one ever would. 






OF A...


=from Susan McAllister=

=100 pieces of garbage=

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

=Uncle Alick=

=envelope art=


=Geisha in the City of Death=

Of all her deaths, it is the one that we recount now that Neena knows the best, knows almost by heart, and for which she feels something almost like nostalgia, it being one of the first deaths that she can remember having suffered. It begins in a place vaguely reminiscent of a place she’s found herself in before (or is it later?); well, it really doesn’t matter. She finds herself in the cavernous ground floor of an old building, a warehouse, perhaps, the kind that has apartments or offices on the floors above, stacked like layers of meat on a thick sandwich.

She passes through a machine-shop, picking her way carefully around a maze of table-top tools of a kind that mean nothing to her: saws, drill-presses, incomprehensible stitching machines, others that mean even less, or even nothing at all, machines whose purpose she can’t even guess at, machine after machine, an evolutionary progression of machines whose existence fades away into a grey non-existence at the end of each dusty row that she passes.

These machines are here, most likely, for only one real purpose: to invoke a sense of anticipatory dread, which they do, standing in half-shadow as they are, a menagerie of machines, mute, grim as engines of execution, but ready to come alive upon command, at the flip of an unseen red switch, humming, grinding, nailing with malevolent intent, a taut band of serrated metal singing a high-speed falsetto, or a loop of thin copper wire heated to the white luminosity of a line of pure poetry.

It is a workhouse devoted to the tortures of the flesh, Neena thinks, or it might as well be, and Neena passes through it as if she were a figure in her own imagination (which she is), fully aware of what horrors could (and will) take place here, what outrages have (and still may) occur in another scene, some frames further along if she should return to this warehouse of damned souls for some at present incomprehensible reason, at three a.m. when a gray work-shift of somnolent men drift in, the hollow-eyed dim army of the marginal, whose hands are hooks, whose oily guts are chain, and whose work is done and undone off the books.

Is it three a.m. already?

For not having tarried in this ominous location, having progressed even as we’ve been speaking to one of the upper stories, the main floor is already throbbing below her, waking like a black and scaly dragon somewhere in the past beneath her feet. She is now in a hallway without doors or any doors that she can see, even though, ostensibly, it is a functional hallway lined with rooms and not a dream hallway (even if this is a dream), nor is it a hallway symbolic in any way. There is no chance of her looking for any particular room, or having a particular destination, or having really any business in this place at all, and so, perhaps, for this reason, no rooms appear to exist, at least to her, as she walks, or rather drifts, listless as a windless smoke, towards the end of this hall, which, incidentally, she cannot see (nor can we), since she (nor we) will never arrive at the end of this hall. So, you might just say it goes on, this hall, like she (and we) do, like the universe does, on and on and on…to a theoretical infinity.

Let us not neglect to say how Neena is dressed for this crucial rendezvous--that is, in a modest but fashionable skirt of dark wool, which is thin enough to assume that the season is mid-to-late fall, tight-fitting, cut just above the knee, most likely ultramarine blue, (definitely not black), with the possibility of a subdued pattern, squares, triangles, stars, but this pattern is easily overlooked; perhaps it will be of interest to the detective assigned to her case, maybe he will look for it; let’s leave him to it then; he’s welcome to such arcane observations. It’s his job, after all, to help solve a crime. Whereas for us…we have other, erm, considerations. Let’s get back to them.

Her blouse is white, a blend of natural and synthetic micro fibers, and of a general silkiness without quite being silk, yet in no way to be mistaken for an attempt to imitate silk. This fabric is better than silk. (Why for heavens sake the italics, Pinker? Are you trying to make a particular point here? If so, I wish to heavens you’d just come right out and make it and spare us your typographic melodramatics.) After some deliberation, it is decided that she is wearing black seamed stockings, very sheer, ultra sheer (again with the italics?), and a lace black garter belt with panties of a matching black lace. The blouse, with its abbreviated collar, is opened at the throat to reveal an expanse of u-shaped white flesh, and only the faintest hint of cleavage, a flash of a black bra strap, part of a lacy black cup filled with the fluffy cream of her tit.

It would be better if she were not wearing an overcoat, even though the season and (particularly) the hour (the former, as noted, suggested by the material of her skirt; the latter by the empty warehouse) would suggest she ought to be, realistically speaking, though we are hardly speaking realistically here. If realism is insisted upon, perhaps we can say that the coat could have been mislaid somewhere, at an earlier appointment, or neglected in the heat of the moment, rushing from the hotel room of a married lover or to the hotel room of a married lover, either of which is not the case; it’s just an excuse, an explanation, for her having no coat, if realism is to be insisted upon.

And even if it were so, that she were rushing to and from the hotel room of a married lover, why rush here? Her shoes are black, consistent with the rest of her outfit, dark blue or black, of a shiny leather, and raising her heels to the level of two or three inches, toes tantalizingly concealed. The overall impression is of a typical office girl, an administrative assistant or cost analyst, perhaps, modest, quiet, super-competent, with an inhibited, but active, yes overly (italics, again, sigh) active, sexual imagination. She may be, as already falsely postulated, a woman having a clandestine affair, possibly with her married supervisor, or, even less likely, she is a straight woman working nights as a call-girl catering to the kinkiest of clientele.

In any event, the unseen figure comes up swiftly behind her, detaching itself from the hanging shadows, and although, expecting as much, (certainly no less), Neena is still taken by surprise, maybe it’s more like she’s surprised to still be surprised, in spite of having expected something of the sort all along. To express this “surprise,” she makes a little gulped cry, as the far greater, the absolutely overwhelming masculine strength of her unseen assailant takes possession of her, causing her to struggle uselessly. She understands immediately the uselessness of struggle but Neena struggles all the same, as it is no doubt required that she do. Who writes this stuff, anyway? (Why, you do Pinker. Don’t be coy.).

Well, she has experienced this attack so many times already that she reacts almost instinctively, all the better to secure her doom, lifting her chin as she ineffectively and with inadvertent sensuality wriggles, her strength rapidly draining away. Her head, grabbed by the hair, is violently yanked back by her attacker, the scent of tweed and octopi in the air, and it is by her very complicity, combined with the aforementioned overwhelming strength of the invisible killer, that causes her neck to be very nearly broken.

She doesn’t feel the blade that slices across her pale defenseless throat, at least not until much later, if the term “much later” can be appropriately used to describe a consciousness that will continue to flicker for a little less than two or three minutes more. She is on her elbows and knees now, crawling forward futilely, through dust and sawdust, blood spraying in a wide fan over the old boards of the bare floor beneath her, her hands covered in blood, her arms, too, the front of her formerly white blouse also plastered wet with red. She crawls forward into the blood streak she is simultaneously dragging along behind her, crawls forward inches no less than the six feet of hallway she has yet to traverse before she collapses into her eternal rest, her dark skirt matted even darker, and now darker yet, her stockings, garter, panties, etc., too, all of the latter, by the way, now exposed to one degree or another.

One of her pumps, as it always seems about to do, has come off her foot, which also slick with blood.

Neena is choking, coughing, her pretty head dangling like a snapped gerbera daisy. She instinctively tries to clear an airway, as she pauses, hopelessly, in her crawling, to draw a breath so that she might continue crawling forward nowhere another foot or so. She is dizzy and close to unconsciousness, amazed and sickened by all this blood, which she can taste and smell, which wets her cheeks, her lips, her eyelids, and her hair, clinging to her face like a scarlet mask. She is blinking, eyes stinging, trying to see through a mist of blood, which continues to spray out of her, sizzling across the floor, flung onto the walls, splashing about wetly in such incredible gouts that it seems impossible that it could all be coming from just one body, her body. She is bleeding in such a spectacularly tragic and showy manner, a veritable special-effects fountain of hemorrhage, that even the fantasy of squelching the flow, either by holding the gaping throat wound closed with her now slippery hands, or by means of the ministrations of a miraculous last-minute appearance of trained emergency medical personnel, is entirely too unrealistic to entertain, even in passing.

She is lying prone on the floor at this point, her forehead in a widening black puddle, the warmth flowing from her severed artery and spreading under her breasts, her belly, her thighs, soaking even the scant black panties. The point at which she crosses the boundary between faux struggle and surrender, at which she loses the capacity to crawl on hands and knees to no purpose whatsoever escapes her entirely, but she has not given up her struggle yet, such as it remains, far from it, even though she is as close to death as she will ever be without being dead, by which we mean that if she were any closer to death, she would be dead, which she will be, and now she is.

Her unseeing eyes are open, staring at a bit of dust crumbling inwards into the heel section of a boot-print a few inches from her noiselessly murmuring lips, lips bright with blood, her fingers still curled for purchase on the plank-wood floor of the hallway, although she doesn’t move forward, not another half-millimeter. The stocking toes of her right foot, the one missing the high-heel pump, are similarly curled, but slightly more dramatically, highlighted, somehow, as she futilely tries to push her body forward, her last bit of will concentrated in the curled toes of that foot, which is now lifted by a gloved and anonymous hand, almost gently, by the ankle, and laid down again, on its finely-arched instep, as if the owner of this gloved hand were patiently correcting a mistake, or relieving Neena of some outdated obligation, the toes curled uselessly up now, the soft, defenseless sole of her small foot fully exposed to the ceiling, the hallway empty except for the hieroglyph of her broken body, and nothing else, the crime scene bathed in the beautiful silence of a door that has been left purposely ajar.

Read the complete novel here:

=100 pieces of garbage=

Monday, October 26, 2015

=from Richard C.=

=Geisha in the City of Death=

On Sundays, which are simulated, Neena sits in the eastern chapel, the one with all the disused satellite dishes, and kneels, head bowed, as a parable is read, ostensibly for her edification, that seems to have something to do with the cellular re-absorption rates during the mitosis of self-cannibalizing cancer cells. Along the walls large computer screens have uploaded photo retouches of celebrity deaths designed by Gnostic internet priests and Neena finds herself confronted now with the live disemboweling of the minor late 20th century actress Alicia Silverstone by medical anatomists, which is anachronistically set sometime in the 17th century.

Neena, aroused from a daydream about a parachute drop she may or may not have experienced, does not hear correctly such partial phrases as “to die again and again and again” and “a paradigm of the beauty of ritualistic human sacrifice” and “the voluntary abrogation of the human ego at the moment of nonconsensual climax,” and other things besides, misunderstanding the true nature of the Mass as  she drifts off sideways into a dream that has something unspecified to do with false doors.

She misses entirely the grand finale and the distribution of the Eucharist which she cannot participate in anyway, even though she has been “confessed” during her interrogation. As best she can make out the reason she cannot take Communion has something to do with the fact of her special status as a “lovely and exclusively grain-fed animal without blemish.” But this is rather dismissively and off-handedly explained to her in simplified terms, as if she were a mere child too young to truly understand. She is advised to simply accept what she’s told as a “Holy Mystery.”

The mass is ended. Go in peace.

Read the complete novel here:

Sunday, October 25, 2015

=electric dog=

=Hills Like White Elephants=

This is a story without any point; I'm telling you this straight off before the very first sentence comes to a close, so don't act surprised, don't cop an attitude, or complain that you've wasted your time or that you've been poorly used because you've been properly and priorly warned; proceed, if you feel so inclined, and, as the saying goes, at your own risk.  It's a story without a point comprised of a number of long and unnecessarily twisting sentences in cadenced rhythms  prettified every so often with a captivating image, or so they were intended when they were placed into the niches, where the alert reader will find them, glowing softly, like a phosphorescent dog. I've even borrowed the story's title, reasoning that it did well for Hemingway and it might just as well as be the title of the present tale as any other, since in addition to having no point, this story has no hills or elephants in it either.

We'll start with our main character: Martin, by name. Martin was the type of man who was fond of telling people this anecdote upon making their acquaintance at a bar or a cocktail party. "From the very first time I heard the expression 'He puts his pants on one leg at a time like everyone else,' I resolved that each morning I'd sit on the edge of the bed, lift both my legs up, line up the openings of my trousers, and thrust my feet through simultaneously." He thought this quite a clever thing to say, did Martin, but his interlocutors held a dimmer view, one that no doubt often involuntarily registered on their faces, an estimation readable beneath the polite forbearing smiles they answered with, legible, that is, to almost anyone but Martin, who never seemed to catch on what an asshole everyone thought he was.

Martin's father was a formidable man, a famous industrialist or race car driver, it was never entirely clear to me; maybe he was a circuit court judge. In any event, he was a large, bluff, imposing man, stern as a steer, with an inflexible, implacable face like the concrete boot adorning the foot of the statue of some great Roman military commander crushing the throat of an enemy, an Octavian Caesar, for instance. He disapproved of Martin massively on general principle, but disapproved of him specifically and in great detail, too; he could tick off the top ten reasons on his fingertips, starting with "momma's boy" and ending on his pinkie with "loser." You know what? I'm thinking that maybe  he was a cardiologist.

Martin had a secret lover, a pretty boy in pink panties, who he kept inside the closet, behind the suits that belonged to an abandoned period in his life. Two or three times a year, Martin had to take his lover's unconscious, cooling body down off the bar where it dangled from the clenched knot of a necktie decorated with some hideous Christmas pattern. The things we do for passion are beyond the computation of even the highest mathematics we've devised, although love can be readily reduced to a few relatively simplistic equations. This situation was designated by the ring finger on his father's first hand, which he flicked with extra violence, as if trying to remove some indelible incriminating booger. "Pansy," I heard him mutter, not knowing the half of it.

Martin had a mother, previously alluded to, because we all must have a hole through which we dropped upon entering this vale of tears, that's just the way it is, although test tubes and so-called "artificial wombs" are showing great promise of making an exception of even this heretofore ironclad rule. Of this mother we know nothing, so it turns out we are not an omniscient author, after all.

If there were to be a point to this story—or a vampire or a murder or a head-on  collision—this would be about the time to start bringing it around the bend. I thought that maybe I'd surprise myself, that if I started this story and just kept writing long enough something would come of it, the way I've read authors claiming that suddenly their story "just took off and from that point on seemed to write itself," or that this or that character "took on a life of her own".

No such luck here. No one in this story took any initiative, let alone life of their own; no one changed so as you'd notice. Martin remained an ineffectual, directionless, momma's boy; his father, a cold, domineering, disapproving statue of a man, the mother an unknown quantity. And the boy in the closet was just something I made up when I made up the part about hearing Martin's father muttering "pansy." In fact the only true part of this story is the anecdote which I overheard some guy delivering at a party. I ended up taking him home with me, if you can believe it, but I was coming off a bad break up at the time and I was trying to get back at the man who hurt me, or trying to prove something to myself, or something. The ways of passion are beyond computation, as I foreshadowed earlier. Anyway, the next morning I was watching to see if he really did do that thing with his pants but he gathered his clothes in his arms and took them into the bathroom to shower and when he came out he was fully dressed.

I'm sure I hardly need to tell you that his name wasn't really Martin, but his father, who, now it suddenly occurs to me, had some kind of important job with the State Department, looked like the writer Martin Amis, unless I have him confused with the real Martin Amis. Or someone else.


By pointing my cellphone camera randomly at the sky, this image appeared in what looked to the naked eye to be a cloudy but empty sky; at the same time, these words seemed to be downloaded spontaneously into my brain, upon which, I wrote them down.

Saturday, October 24, 2015

=Roman Holiday=

Footloose and fancy free, I was wandering around Europe for five years when I realized, damn, I forgot to call in sick to work! I was in Italy at the time, touring the majestic cathedrals, strolling through the great museums, reflecting among the melancholy ruins, sipping espresso in various sunlit piazzas while feeding the Italian pigeons with Italian bread crumbs when it hit me. As I hurried back to my room in a panic, I wracked my brains to come up with an excuse that wouldn't sound completely ridiculous for an unexplained absence of five years. A fierce thunderstorm rose up from out of nowhere forcing me to seek shelter under an awning, then a mad dog got loose in the street, and, just as I was nearing my goal, I was stuck between floors in an antiquated elevator crowded with a bunch of American tourists, among whom was an elderly couple bickering over the pork roll she forgot to buy him. It was already 1.30pm on a Friday afternoon and everything seemed to be conspiring to keep me from getting back to my room and writing that all-important email. What time was it in New York, anyway? Was my boss still at her desk? Eventually I made it back to my inexpensive bedsit, half-expecting to find my laptop had vanished or that the internet was down. But, no, everything was in order, just as I'd left it. I sat down and  composed a brief email, apologizing that I hadn't been able to make it in to the office these past five years but that I'd really been feeling under the weather.  Fortunately, I seemed to have turned the corner and was now feeling back to normal. "I hope," I wrote, "I didn't miss anything too important." To my surprise, my boss wrote back almost immediately. She was very understanding. She told me not to worry. In fact, she hadn't even noticed my absence. She inquired as to whether I thought I was feeling well enough  to make it in to the office on Monday morning. I wrote back saying that I'd be at my desk bright and early. Then I went out to find a good spaghetti place. "Why go back at all?" my wife asked, sitting on the other side of the candlelight in a quaint taverna, "if in all this time they never even noticed you weren't there?" It was a good question but an even better question was how did I forget I had a wife until that very moment? For that matter, how did I forget that I used to be a man? How did she forget I wasn't one any more? What else had we forgotten? I looked across the table at this strange, flickering woman who was becoming stranger and stranger by the second the more that I remembered. Pretty soon, I thought, she'll flicker out entirely and I'll be completely alone. I felt an immense sense of relief. I took a deep breath, closed my eyes, and made a wish. 

Then I blew the candle out.

Friday, October 23, 2015

=So how does it handle?=

=Geisha in the City of Death=

“Please,” she says without actually saying the word aloud, or, for that matter, making any sound at all, but using the position of her body alone to communicate her meaning, like a totemic hieroglyphic, to convey the message: 

“Please, beat me harder.”

Neena is bound in the usual way, that is to say, her arms pulled overhead, wrists crossed, cuffed, and a chain stretching upward into a darkness as infinitely regressive as outer space. She has been stretched to the extreme, hoisted onto tippy-toe, and she takes the expected, but no less so for that, delightful, mincing little half-steps, forward and back, backward and fore, that advance her no place at all. She has asked, previously, if her shoes might be removed: large Plexiglas platforms in the heel of each of which a green Gloster canary is imprisoned—but this wish of hers, to her great disappointment, has predictably been denied.

Her torso, stretched taut, reveals her ribcage, each rib in aesthetic high-relief, alternating light and shadow, a xylophonic provocation, illuminated by off-stage spotlights, which tempt the viewer to imagine the severe fetishistic constriction of her breath, as if she might be wearing a transparent corset, and who can say for certain that she isn’t?  

What you can say is that she isn’t entirely naked, only very nearly so. She is wearing a platinum g-string featuring a tiny “v” of lycra mesh that does little to conceal, and much more to frame, the plump cleft peach of her shaved mound, which is moistened, periodically, with atomized camphor held by a seemingly disembodied hand emerging from the surrounding shadows. The ultra-thin, nearly invisible string that keeps the scrap of underwear from falling to her ankles seems drawn over her sharp white hipbones with nothing more than a cursive pencil line deftly executed by a left-handed Marcel Duchamp. [Note to Pinker: Was Duchamp left-handed? Please verify].

She opens her mouth to moan, but, of course, no sound comes forth, her mouth merely opening wide and closing, like the mouth of a goldfish in poorly oxygenated water; thus, it is that she “moans” when, exhausted, she is unable to maintain her tiptoe balance for any reason, whether it’s a blow from the heavy bullwhip that periodically falls or from simple exhaustion, for her position requires unceasing physical discipline and one-point mental focus, and, occasionally, her mind drifts off into a weary haze and consequently her heels drop an eighth-of-an-inch towards the cold blue tiles of an otherwise transparent floor.

It’s just such an interlude of quiet moaning that Neena experiences now, a period that is neither here nor there, a limbo within a limbo, without a climax, and therefore, perhaps, all the more excruciating for that.           

Someone—or something—whips her, clearly that must be the case, but who or what it is that administers this flogging, no one knows. The whip appears and disappears, as does the atomizer, wielded by a seemingly disembodied hand. It is the very anonymity and relativity that is what is most provocative about this beating, and the real source of its erotic frisson, to be specific: its utter incomprehensibility.

Whether there is real pain or not, or if it is all merely simulated, a performance, that, too, is irrelevant, (to the observer in any event), but what does interest whoever might be present, although there is no one present at the moment (but you), is that Neena is posing as if there is pain, or, if not exactly pain, as if she is feeling something,  that she isn’t a cold, unemotional, frigid bitch.

Is there real damage being done to her body, is this damage visible on the pale, previously unblemished flesh, and is this even a concern (and to whom?), aesthetically or sexually, or both, and why does this seem to be the last thing to consider in this particular “intervention”?

We don’t know.

Common sense informs us that it would be impossible to suppose that a lead-weighted bullwhip braided into existence from strips of salt-cured leather and quarter-inch copper cable, and wielded, as it is, with both expertise and savagery, by either a mechanical or a human agent, upon the body of a nearly nude, helplessly bound, delicate and vulnerable young woman such as Neena would not have disastrous effects.

There are, thus, upon closer inspection, all the expected alarmingly garish wounds, ie. the ripped flesh and exposed muscle, the blood freely flowing, and bones that actually break under the force of blows that strike with a surprising solidity, no matter how many times they’re struck. The idea, roundly put, seems to be to ruin the girl’s body entirely, while leaving, untouched, the agonic spirituality of the suffering angelic face, or suggestive of something equally ridiculous.

What eventually becomes clear is that it would be a simple matter to end this scene with a single flourish, such as laying open Neena’s carotid with an off-hand whip stroke, but that possibility, for reasons previously alluded to, will never be entertained, and so the beating continues, as it has, with a brutality so methodical and disinterested that it has all come to seem quite in the ordinary course of things, like, perhaps, the operation of a printing press.

Neena, likewise, continues posing, as if it mattered, as if someone wandered in to watch, and one can say, without any certainty whatsoever, that no one has; but really one wouldn’t know, how could one, and so one makes no speculation on the matter at all (even though we have), but continues, as does Neena, to behave, vaguely, as if it were possible that someone were watching, which, theoretically, it always is.

And as always, just before the viewer, whether present or not, might be reasonably expected to direct his or her attention elsewhere, the joints of Neena’s arms, extended to the absolute limit by her extreme position, finally “pop” out of their sockets, first the left and then the right, causing additional pain to register on her classically beautiful face. But this is not to be mistaken for the climax of this interlude, (oh no don’t mistake it for that!), as the whole thing goes on and on indefinitely, as does the hypothetical viewer’s attention, whether present or not.

What we have here is a model of endless foreplay—or is it excruciating frustration?—such as might be a model of an obsessive sexual fantasy. One simply notes that Neena’s exposed armpits, of which she is mystifyingly (under the circumstances) self-conscious, are painted yellow and violet, left and right respectively, with a kind of UV sensitive paint that glows when illuminated by black light, as it does now, as all the spotlights, suddenly, go out.

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=Book recently read: Newspaper by Edouard Leve=

Based on her admiration of an author's first book, a woman takes out another of his books, which she happens upon by chance on a shelf of new offerings at the library. This new book is quite unlike the first one and she didn't like it nearly as much. In fact, she finds it a bit difficult to push herself through the pages, even though there aren't very many of them, only 124, in fact. The book is supposed to be the transcription of a series of newspaper articles that have been stripped of specific identifying details, such as names and dates, so as to make the stories generic and typical of the human condition. The chapters are designated as "sections" of the paper. There are chapters labeled "International," "Science and Technology," "Literature and the Arts," "Sports," "Entertainment," "Classified," etc. In theory, it seems a pretty good idea and perhaps it would have been in practice, too, if only it had been done better. Drained of specifics, the stories seem so repetitive and generic that one runs into another and soon become terribly tedious. Maybe that was the point, the woman thinks, writing her brief review of the author's book. She knows that the author, shortly after finishing his final book, which was about suicide, committed suicide. Maybe life seemed to him just as gray, tedious, repetitious and futile as it does in this fictional "newspaper." Well, it's true, she considers, looking out the window at the stray cat digging hungrily into the bowl of food she's just set down for him, the news really is nothing but the same old series of stories. Endless war, corporate criminality, political corruption, inane gossip and puerile entertainment, which, if stripped of the constantly changing cast of characters that lend it a false sense of novelty and drama, would fail to hold our interest at all so depressingly typical and cliche it would prove itself to be. The book, she finally considers, is one of those conceptual pieces that is a lot more interesting to think about and discuss than it is to actually read. She thinks about the author, dead, by means of his own hand, at the age of 42. She looks out the window at the wind shaking the yellow-green leaves of the tree across the street. The cat, finished, sits at the top of the stairs, licks himself under one front arm and under the other front arm, and then slowly saunters off up the street. What does she think about when she thinks about the author? Nothing specific. There is a kind of gray static in which one can hear, or, more accurately, imagine one hears, the suggestion of this and that but, in the end, it is just meaningless fuzz. The clothes in the dryer downstairs must be done by now, she thinks, and ends her review.

Thursday, October 22, 2015

=In her boudoir=

=The Great Hunger=

It was a breakfast buffet and I was really putting my back into it. Sausage links, sausage patties, pancakes, eggs scrambled, poach, fried, and unidentified, bacon strips shiny with grease, potatoes likewise, biscuits, muffins, fleshy pink slices of honey-glazed ham…I was loading my plate with everything, the diet be damned, my vegetarianism, too. Where was this great hunger coming from? What kind of hole was I trying so desperately to fill? What was buried at the bottom that I wanted to ensure stay buried? It was as if I were eating for four, for an entire village! Indeed as I began eating off of someone else's abandoned plate it slowly dawned on me that everyone else in the conference room was gone. I was here all by myself. The army had discovered the hotel and were moving carefully through the jungle even as I munched away. They were lining up the coordinates, calling in air support, laying down fire lines. I had a big cold cinnamon bun in my hand as they entered through all the doors at once. Their high-powered weapons converged on me, red dots swarmed my heart. Camouflaged, goggled, masked with breathing apparatus, they looked like creatures from another world. By now I was nauseous, I'd had my fill. How was I going to explain what I was doing here? It was the very question I was asking myself only moments ago when with growing disgust I was trying to compute how many calories I'd consumed and how many meals I'd have to skip to average them out to something like my normal intake. Well, what was I doing here? I could feel the hot itchy swarm of activity at my heart where the red dots swarmed like bees around an inexplicably abandoned hive full of honey. I was the queen and I had gone, ferried away for my own protection, but somehow I'd snuck back, unbeknownst to everyone, even myself, until this very moment. How could I explain it? I couldn't. They weren't going to understand. How could they when I myself didn't? I wish they'd just shoot, half of me was thinking. The other half was thinking any number of other things.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

=An odd symptom=

=Geisha in the City of Death=

"Let us proceed," the man says, and pauses an indeterminate period of time. He stares, with great curiosity, as if it were one of the most fascinating things he’d ever seen, at the white button on the cuff of his  standard-issue white oxford cotton dress shirt. 

And to think: it was there at the end of his very own arm the whole time! 

He examines it, at first, with mild amusement, and then, a growing bewilderment, until he is outright stupefied, as if the button doesn't belong there, as if it’s appearance there on his cuff were the most improbable thing to be imagined, a kind of miracle. At last, shrugging it off, as if it were “just one of those things,” he looks up and finishes the sentence he began what seems so long ago now.

“There are a few questions we'd like you to answer."

It is, to all appearances, a typical interrogation room: grey walls of regulation concrete block, ugly wooden table, three uncomfortable chairs, a large mirror, presumably two-way, built into one wall, and, of course, the obligatory naked bulb. The room is cold, as one might expect, and Neena, occasionally shivering uncontrollably, tries to suppress a natural urge to hug herself, which is difficult to do, dressed inadequately as she is in a white paper slip and white paper slippers, as if in preparation for some nasty medical procedure.

Indeed, Neena is nearly overcome with a sickening temptation to look down at her body, to take a quick inventory of any new scars that might indicate a recent surgical procedure, the removal of an organ, for instance, or, equally unsettling, the addition of a new organ, orifice, or limb, the result of some outrageous new transplant or modification. But she manages to resist the curiosity, irresistible as it is, and keeps looking forward, away from the presumably two-way mirror, to the terminus of the man's chin, and the white, star-shaped scar thereupon.

What happened to her clothes, if she had, in fact, been wearing clothes when she arrived, she doesn't remember, nor does she remember who it was that must have undressed her, if she didn't undressed herself (why would she have?). She could almost think, and this thought is beginning to dominate her meditations on the subject with a wearying regularity, that she is wearing some kind of prison uniform, except that the gown, which ties up in the back and therefore at first confounded her, is not made of paper, after all, but of silk or an imitation silk (there is no manufacturer’s label to decide the issue), with a little trim of patterned lace (hearts and hummingbirds?) around the bodice, and hardly standard hospital fare at all. Similarly, it is altogether too sexy for a prison, even a prison of the minimum-security variety, which, in any event, this does not appear to be, or so Neena thus far reasons.

"You are cold?" the man asks, nodding vigorously, encouraging assent. "Yes?"

He allows a little smile to inform his thin lips, not to indicate that he is satisfied, but as if in acknowledgment of the algebraic understanding that he can see dawning in her eyes, as if to say “and so x=y, you have it now, ja?”  He offers her a glass of water, which he has been pouring now, on and off, the whole time she has been here (which is how long anyway?), but which never seems to fill the glass more than halfway…is it some kind of trick?

Neena takes the (finally) proffered glass without thinking, thirsty in spite of the cold, yet she would have taken it even if she weren't thirsty, if for no other reason than to complete the gesture of the offer, that seeming to be the only thing it is possible to do, so subtly tyrannical is the entire exchange, like all such exchanges with all such men as the one who sits across from her now.  

Still, holding the glass, or rather, the paper cup, for it suddenly seems to us more suitable that it were a paper cup, under her chin, the tremor of her right hand, fingers slightly numb from cold, causes the surface of the water to tremble in sympathy, or mockery, of her cold terror. Neena pauses before taking the obligatory sip, fearing, not poison this time, or even truth serum, but something else even more horrible, though what could be more horrible than poison or truth serum, she doesn't know.

"Go ahead," the man says, almost jovially, "it is only…"

His attention is momentarily caught again by that damnably curious button. Actually, it’s an identical button on the other cuff! At length, he shrugs once more, looks up as if slightly distracted, and contrives an expression to indicate that he is recalling where he previously left off. He finishes the sentence tentatively, "…water?"

He starts to light a cigarette, another all-but-obligatory prop which Neena had expected to make its appearance at a point long before this one. She finds herself wishing that he would just go ahead and smoke, it would be a relief somehow if he did, but just then he suddenly stops the whole production, puts the cigarette and lighter back into his jacket pocket. He looks down briefly at the button on his cuff again, shrugs, frowns "perplexedly," and then looks up at Neena, but this time as if to say, "so now what?"

Neena, meanwhile, if just to be doing something, if only to break this horrible nightmare stasis (and wake up, perhaps?), has taken a sip from the paper cup. The water, which tastes vaguely of old photographs in which dead relatives pose, seems to be only water, after all. She is not comforted, however. Instead, she is wondering again, in spite of herself, how she came to be here in the first place (fruitless speculations, we don’t have to tell you). Was she taken from her bed in the dead of night or brazenly kidnapped off the street? Had she been raped in an alley or van after a brief, seemingly impromptu flirtation in a bar or bookstore?

She is thinking that, perhaps, she did something impulsive while under the influence of alcohol, or a semi-legal narcotic, and although this is not her normal pattern of behavior, far from her standard social M.O, it is, at the same time, not categorically impossible, not entirely out of character (of her shadow character). As human beings, we are vortices of unpredictability; there is always a first time for anything. The parallel idea that she was the innocent victim of some kind of freak accident or medical emergency, that she was struck down in the street by a delivery truck or suffered a seizure, is never far from her mind, either; in fact, it occurs to her repeatedly, almost obsessively.           

Also it almost certainly must have occurred to Neena that it is all-too-possible that she has been arrested for some arcane reason or other, either that a mistake has been made in targeting her for arrest, or that she really has done something illegal of which she is entirely unaware (the breaking of some quietly passed law solely intended to allow the authorities to arrest whomever they want whenever they want without the inconvenient obstacle of such considerations as “civil rights” [haha], ignorance, of course, being no excuse for ignorance of the law, etc.).

Perhaps, the man, once again starting (and failing) to light a cigarette, understands all-too-well the nature of her basic innocence and this understanding accounts for his generally casual, even friendly, if still strictly appropriately official behavior—a behavior that might, almost, be mistaken to indicate that they are both caught, more or less, in the same unavoidable situation, and what can they do, but try to make the best of it while it lasts (hopefully not too much longer; short of forever, in any case). They need only clear up a few mandatory points and afterwards she will be free to go on her merry way, and la-dee-da.

So Neena muses. A question slowly drifts across her consciousness, as insubstantial as a form already vanishing, suggested by the smoke exhaled from the cigarette she anticipates but that the man is still not smoking. It is a question that she doesn’t ask, never asks, never even thinks of asking, after asking, futilely, so many times before.

"Did I do something wrong?"

The man, who has just finished a gesture as if to say, "That's it, I've done with this button for good," looks up, suddenly, as if Neena has indeed inquired aloud about a possible inadvertent transgression, (and, perhaps, she may have in spite of herself and all the blather we blathered just a moment ago), or as if he has read her mind (and perhaps he has), or as if, even more likely, he understands that it’s simply the most natural thought to occur to anyone in Neena’s position at this juncture of her interrogation, the man having conducted such interviews as this one thousands of times before--and for the exact same reasons, which is to say no reason at all.

There is no smile on his thin lips and no expression on his narrow expressionless face and there is no cigarette between his fingers. He doesn't seem to be looking at her at all, nor has he been, it occurs to Neena, from the beginning of this interview, which is only a euphemism that they use for what is transpiring between them, whatever the hell it is that is transpiring between them, if anything at all can properly be said to be transpiring between them.  

It is still very cold in the room and the water in the cup that Neena is holding is also very cold, but it no longer tastes of the photographs of long-dead relatives stiffly posed but like her own hands as she wets her lips from the water cupped from the wheel-ruts beside which she kneels, crows wheeling overhead. She drinks while waiting for the man to say what he always says at this juncture:

"But, as you and I well know, that is not the question that truly concerns us here, now is it?"

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