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Beat of the Bodhirukka

3 Mar

O may it be real.

Sweat is creeping down my flanks and between my buttocks as I shake just enough red powder into a spoon and then to the rising bubbles of the catalytic pot. I drop the lid and crimp the top of the foil package and slip it in a crack and slap at ants transporting particles of egg across the counter top toward their kingdom under the floor of the pod. Gnats whirl about my head as I grope among the dishes in the sink. Under the Flowmatic, I swirl out my vessel and place it beside the pot. The pod sways. Across the forest, a monkey hoots. A kulonbozik gigantus, or Rainbow-billed Toucan, whose wings extend ten feet, drops his head into the window space to rattle his bill.

I rummage among shells and rocks and limbs on my glossy-dark-wood-finish shelves and locate the Beat of the Bodhirukka. Rolling beneath my bunk in the high-backed, luxury-leather, executive office desk chair, I reach across the wood-and-metal, glossy-finish, gray-frame desk (and the dread Typomatic) to insert it in the twelvetrack. The Beat of the Bodhirukka blends with the catter of lorikeets, askaris, hornbills, trogons, and the pod fills with a scent of crushed cherry pits and aspirin.

I tip the pot, and a pink stream fills my vessel.

Saint John’s Selasian Blizzard. Favored of Berzandia’s entertainment crowd. Fuel for the youth dansolution. Familiarly known as bliz.

Be wary—imitations abound. I am told the active ingredient is rendered from the bark of the saffrol laurel tree. You can get it in tincture, gumdrops and blotters, in a tobacco mix, in crystals, powdered. The Berzandia crowd likes it as a rum liqueur. It does wonders for confidence, for focus. It is lovely with music. It improves scenery. It restores faith. It addresses man’s evolutionary problem. Of old, man is a loather of forests and darkness—paradoxically enough—since he issued thereof in evolutionary and metaphorical senses. Though you dwell in your tower of glass, you are still sharpening your spear, murmuring incantations against the forestdark beyond city lights. Saint John’s Silesian Blizzard. Purchase it from someone you trust. Take one fifteen minutes before settling down at the feet of your unfinished sculpture. Before taking your children to the park. Your wife to bed. A cautionary note. Eventually, you may need it for these functions. You will start to notice the malignancy of the mundane, the odiousness of your own ordinary state of mind. Carrion in a feedbag under your chin. Whatever position you occupy on the marketplace will become a form of torture.

And you will go back to bliz.

Through an assembly of bounding tree frogs, I bear the vessel to the rail of the deck. The shrill of birdsong—along with the babble of children and women scolding and frying breakfast and water churning in the ravine, rushing over the rapids—is unbroken. Boughs shuffle and uncover stilts, bridges between trees, ladders white in sunlight. The rope bridge curves to the vine-trailing central pod, where a girl bends over potted plants and a woman pulls a comb through silver hair. Like the spokes of a wheel, bridges web from the central pod to others among the trees.

The hot, hundred-proof bliz goes to work. Before my eyes, a veil attenuates and breaks apart and the tatters flutter away among butterflies. Fountains of steam reel from tumbling canopy, turning amber, then orange, then scarlet, and the ocean blazes, and the creatures of the forest burst into rapturous cacophony: holy, holy, holy. The sun, a shaman with the wing of a crow, fans dazzling sparks, and my lungs expand, and corpuscles multiply, and the bodibeat pounds, and in each single leaf, I know the fraternity of hearts human and bestial, the storehouses of gladness packed into every cell of creation, and I find my body following a sacred choreography, my feet shuffling, my hands like the branches of a willow raising to the sky and trailing.

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Fiscus Apostina

18 Nov

Madame Cracey stretches for cigarettes and bumps the wine flute, which bursts against the floor. On a blue wave, fragments twirl and slide. Shaved cats gallop along two sets of windows. Among the potted trees at the edge of the floor space, they peek and stalk while in the kitchen cracks Berthold’s Utteringrish ditty. And in the front yard, an imperial pigeon with gray wings jerks off a fig: fiscus apostina. A number of species, including the Harlequin Fruit dove and Cresson’s Crowned Pigeon favor that fruit, and yellow seeds are scattered about the soil. A hand comes down from Madame’s face. Her shoulders are stiff, lips parted, eyes fixed.

Mais pas grave,” says Mr. Cracey.

Motherpiss.”

“We have other glasses.”

“Don’t apprise me of our glasses. I order them.”

“Why, you are allowed to break a glass.”

That’s not the point.

“What is the point?”

“The point is.”

“Yes?”

“The point is I was obliged to wait three months for that glass. The point is, as everyone knows, fifty-dolerais stemware should be placed at eleven o’clock. Not at five o’clock. There is a reason for that.”

At the head of her reflection Berthold fills the doorway, permanent smile deepening the puckerwork at the corners of her eyes. Across the glossy slab, she staggers like a golem, the bottle a weapon in gnarled hands, her foot dragging, apron slightly soiled. Across the glassblue floor of the Cracey dining hall she staggers, mindful of her brittle bones, a paragon of longevity, an embattled clipper outdistancing a cape of dead: lovers, husbands, comrades, enemies, children. She staggers free of care toward a grave that cannot be far off.

“Thirty-eight, sir.”

“Open it. Then fetch a broom. I’m afraid that we have a catastrophe.”

“Of course, Mr. Cracey.”

“And fetch Madame a glass.”

“Of course.”

Berthold clunks the bottle bottom first on the table, and Madame winces as her deformed hands wrench the corkscrew. The music machine exudes a monotonic dirge, and the emotodome covers Berthold in beige light. The bottle pops. Berthold drops the corkscrew into her apron and bears the trembling cork beside Cracey’s dessert fork. She treks back across the blue floor, and a cat, slashing its tail, follows her into the kitchen. Madame lights a cigarette.

“I cannot bear them any longer. Relics of your childhood.”

“We can’t dismiss our entire household.”

“Really, I cannot.”

“They have been with us since—”

“I haven’t the energy to keep tabs on your menagerie of crones.”

“No one is asking you to.”

“Meanwhile, our guests come trudging to the door on foot?

“I enjoyed the walk, Madame Cracey.”

“I should have checked the handhelds.”

“This all has to change. I cannot bear it. My health is at risk.”

Beamed onto Mr. Cracey’s face, which is sinking into his palm (I recall a man’s face crushed into his hand, just so, before us children) the flush of the emotodome has become a gray-yellow pall. Yellow of hysteria. Wild venom of deranged justice. Gray of defeat. Of crumbling, helpless masculinity . . ..

Or haze of blame, acrid and unmitigated, eroding the image of a man who longed for love like a child, who could not divest himself of carnal vitiation, who gave into it like a bed wetter, who purported falsely to be our exemplar of faith and stoicism, who was all Achilles heel and weak spine and craving, ready to sacrifice us all, every starch-shirted child frozen behind his plate at a glass table within a trembling, tipping house of glass—for another her.

Berthold, again, broom in one fist, tin dust pan in another, plugs our way across the glowing space, ankles wreathed in cats. She brings a smile that dawned across her face with a second childhood. Imbecilic, proud of accoutrements, she comes on, an emissary of the blithe menagerie of crones who don’t bother about roadcarts and handhelds. Berthold who remains like a camphor tree in the forest with the forms of almost everyone she knew fallen around her. She cracks to one knee and brings in glass and bluewine with jerks of the hand broom and tells us her thoughts, apropos of nothing, on reincarnation.

“Used ta tell Mr. Cracey when he was a bean. Don’t matter how big your house is or how much money ya got. Do the best ya know how this time around. Next time maybe you are going to be a snake. Sliding on your belly, ha-ha, boys lobbing rocks in your direction. Next time maybe you are going to be some Zipango with two heads and two mouths ta feed. Now, how would that be? Both heads saying, feed me. No, feed me. I prefer rice. I prefer porridge.”

“I don’t quite agree, Berthold,” says Mr. Cracey.

His chair screeches, and he leans over the table, the ivory buttons of his sleeve shining as he empties his glass, dribbling wine over the suckling pig.

“Two heads are not such a burden to the monster who sports them. They burden the rest of us. Especially those charged with care and feeding. Two heads might actually be an advantage. A man with two heads can never be lonely. You could devote one head to philosophy, for example, one to aesthetics. One to dalliance, one to drudgery. If I had an extra head, I would devote it entirely to the memorization of texts.”

He picks up the half-full bottle of bluewine by the neck and pours that also over the back of the piglet.

“What on earth are you doing?” says Madame Cracey.

“I am pouring out a weak vintage.”

“Over our meal?”

“Consider it an offering—”

“I consider it an outrage.”

“To the gods who punish hubris. Studebaker, which are those?”

Bluewine knocks the slice of tomato from the eye and runs between the squares cut in the flesh, adding to a greasy pool in the platter.

“All of them, I suspect.”