Go to content Go to navigation Go to search

Table of Contents

Crouching naked – Mr. Keightlinger refuses –

Crouching naked under thick white smoke that’s rapidly ceiling the room he flips open the scorched grey jacket and the yellowed shirt inside collapses white ash soughing from placket and collar and the blackened bow tie and he’s saying “No, no,” poking the ash-dusted skull, “how could you, how,” as flames rush up the curtain over across the bed and billow the smoke that’s hung above the upended table. He slaps the skull clenches his face runs his hands over and over his bare bald head until the curl of lank grey hair that’s left is standing stiffly straight. “It’s not, it wasn’t, it shouldn’t have done that.” He stands, fingertips digging in the corners of his eyes. “Stupid, stupid. What were you after what were you even doing here you dumb sonofabitch.” Bumping into the bed behind him he sits heavily. Over behind him one of the table legs falls in a splash of flame. The armchair in the corner’s smoking. “You blew up,” says Mr. Charlock, jerking to his feet again, “you stupid motherfucker, you blew up!” and he kicks the skull tearing it loose from a blackened patch of carpet rolling wobbling clacking against the night-table between the beds its jaw askew.

“You blew up,” he says.

Outside the smoke-smeared window there’s movement, shadows. A pounding on the door. Mr. Charlock stands and steps carefully over the body, stoops to pick up the skull. “You blew up,” he says, jabbing his middle finger into an eye-socket, wiggling it, poking, pulling it out, thumbing his fingertip clean of nothing but a little soot. Turning the skull over in his hands. Someone’s yelling “Hey! Anybody in there?” Fire sprouts in a corner of the armchair and rapidly blooms.

“You been dead a while,” says Mr. Charlock to the skull in his hands. “Hadn’t you. Here’s me thinking it was you fucking with my old buddy and all along it was him. He’s the one.” He closes his eyes and kisses the top of the skull lightly, then sets it down in the middle of the smoking bed. Steps back over the scorched grey suit on the floor past the beds towards the alcove in the back, the sink, the overturned wheelchair. Someone outside’s still pounding on the door. He stops in the doorway to the bathroom, one hand resting on his hard round belly, the hair furring his arm, his belly, hanks of it at the tops of his skinny thighs all gone a ghost grey in the bright clean slash of light. “For what it’s worth,” he says, looking back, “I’m sorry.” He steps into the bathroom and gently closes the door. The flames in the corner have reached the ceiling now and the smoke there boils away. Outside a siren’s wailing, coming closer.

The black car growls too quickly down the narrow residential street, jerking to a stop at the corner with a yelp from its tires. The driver’s door’s yanked open with a popping squonk and Mr. Keightlinger’s shaggy brown head pops up, looks left, looks right over the roof of the car lined with hand-painted cramped white shapes like letters. Quiet streets lined with parked cars and houses lit up against the deepening night and nothing moving, no sound, not even rain. “Yeah?” says Mr. Keightlinger, falling back into the driver’s seat. “Vacant lot, vacant lot by the river, where’d the river go.” He leans out over the pavement, hawks and spits. Patting his lips and his beard he looks down at the whitish blot gleaming in the streetlight, a tendril spattered away to the left. He slams his door, guns the motor. The black car wheels neatly to the left and leaps away.

The next corner’s much the same as the last. He’s about to open the door but looking off to the right he doesn’t. It’s bright down that way, wet pavement gleaming in a warm and yellow light. “Huh,” he says, spinning the wheel, working the gearshift and clutch.

It fills a simple intersection, the pavement of it painted in a great circle stretching from corner to corner in yellows and whites a sunflower burning bitterly in all that light, light glaring from the blankened windows of the houses that sit at three of the corners, sunlight gushing from a jagged hole in the night air filled with feathers and eyes, wings lapping wings unfolding and lazily flapping, wings shivering, stretching, eyes that blink and look about, eyes the color of shadowed earth and polished wood and dead dry grass and the high white blue of desert skies. The black car sails under that hole, the spidery white lines of the letter-shapes whorling its hood and roof flaring with a coldly furious light of their own. It squeals to a stop before the fourth corner, where instead of a house there’s a high red gate freshly painted and old paned windows suspended to either side. The driver’s door opens with a popping squonk and Mr. Keightlinger climbs out, scuffing the old yellow and white paint with a black shoe. “Fortuitous,” he says. “Nothing to see here.” Putting on a pair of classic black sunglasses. “Nothing to see here, nothing to see.” Stamping one foot, then the other, shaking out his arms. The left lens of his sunglasses covered with spidery words painted in white ink. All those wings and eyes towering above him shudder and pull together like a great breath taken in and then there is a sound, a monstrous blare of eagle-screams, of lions, of a phalanx of trumpets as they surge toward the gate, the car, only to be brought up short by Mr. Keightlinger standing there unmoved arms up crossed before his face two fingers extended from either hand.

“Oh I don’t think so,” he says.

“Shit,” says Mr. Charlock, sitting up abruptly in the back seat face in his hands. “Oh fucking fuck me hell I do not,” rolling up onto his knees, heels of his hands tight against his eyes, sobbing for breath slumping against the back of the driver’s seat. “Have time for this,” he whispers. Trembling reaching for the black suit laid out on the seat fists knotting the pants and dragging them out from under himself, working them open belt buckle jangling, wailing once as he sits back, a high thin keening through clenched teeth as he lifts his outsized feet toes curled knobby knees jackknifed and jams them all at once into the pants legs. “God!” Chest heaving belly bouncing with fast shallow breaths. Hands clumsily fumbling with zipper and button and belt. “Fuck!” He pounds the back of the driver’s seat and again, and again. Pounces on the black jacket, rips it open, roots in the buttoned white shirt beneath it, yanks out a sleeveless T-shirt and fights his way into it.

Mr. Charlock falls out of the orange car to his hands and bare feet scrabbling on the damp pavement pushing himself up into a stumbling headlong run out into the intersection painted with a great circle of yellows and whites dulled by weather and traffic a sunflower barely visible in the darkness lit only by streetlights at three of the corners. “No,” he’s saying, “no, no, no!” Spinning in the middle of the intersection running his hands over and over his bare bald head. More steadily now he heads for the dark fourth corner, the high red gate, the empty paned windows, the dark vacant lot behind it filled with trees and junk, bare wood, discarded doors, sheets of tin and translucent plastic. “Already gone,” he’s saying to himself, “already fell out of the fucking goddamn hell.” Wiping his mouth with the back of one hand. “Oh this is gonna. Oh I am gonna take someone apart joint by joint for this.”

Over across the intersection a yapping there’s a dog a little shaggy thing tugging at a leash a woman in sweatpants and a raincoat peering at him. “What?” snarls Mr. Charlock. “The fuck you looking at?” Slapping his feet against the sidewalk, clapping his hands. “Fucking pants for no fucking reason,” he mutters, and then he throws back his head eyes wide and bellows, “Wissenkunst, motherfucker! Four walls can’t hold me!”

A jangle of belt buckle, a flutter of white. The woman in the raincoat frowning lets the little dog tug her out into the intersection, across it, toward that dark corner, the red gate. There on the sidewalk a pair of black pants, a white T-shirt, crumpled, empty. The little dog sniffs at them and starts back, growling.

Table of Contents

M.E. Traylor    15 March 2011    #

I must. Know. What is happening. With the rip in SPACE TIME full of WINGS.

I originally had a hard time paying attention to the Charlock/Keightlinger scenes, and now they’re some of my favorite characters.

  Textile Help