Go to content Go to navigation Go to search

Table of Contents

“I don’t know how much longer it’ll hold” – Jasmine refuses –a Jump; a Landing –

“I don’t know how much longer it’ll hold,” says the gaunt man sitting at one end of the long low sofa.

“And then it’ll start happening again?” says the man with the gun, standing in the low wide doorway to the porch. Outside the wind’s a low and constant wash of sound unbroken by any patter of rain. The woman huddled at the other end of the sofa says, “What was it you said you had parked outside?” Her shoulders bare she’s wrapped in a particolored quilt, her long hair straight and black and loose.

“An angel,” says the man with the gun, and Jessie says “Oh God.” She’s sitting on the floor to one side of the doorway under stained and faded snapshots of various angles and corners of the room about them, each one hazed by wisps and tendrils of smoke that seem to eddy in the uncertain light. Her grey chauffeur’s jacket unbuttoned, sagging open, a scrap of black lace stuffed in one clenched fist. “Ain’t about you,” says the man with the gun. “We here for the sorcerer. Soon as I get him, soon as we’re gone.”

“He isn’t here,” says Jo. Still in her satiny black slip and her black jeans by the porch railing, leaning against one of the peeled and polished branches that serve as columns, arms wrapped about herself.

“He is,” says the man with the gun. “You.” He waves at the gaunt man on the sofa, who says “Michael St. John Lake.”

“Okay. You his wife?” waving it at the woman at the other end of the sofa.

“No,” she says, and the gaunt man says “I’m not married.”

The man with the gun says, “This your place?” to Michael.


“The fuck is it? What did it do to me?” His arms folded now, the gun in his hand tucked away under an armpit, grey jacket rucked open over the white shirt buttoned all the way up to his throat. “To us, right? I mean you saw, we all saw,” looking around the room.

“It’s a teahouse,” says Michael. “A place to be alone with your memories. Or make new ones, with friends.”

“That wasn’t no memory,” says the man with the gun.

“Your – rather precipitous arrival, unbalanced things,” says Michael.

“An angel.” The woman at the end of the sofa snorts.

“Oh,” says Jo, gripping the porch railing. “We’re there. We aren’t here anymore.”

“I would take great care in putting names to things,” says Michael. He takes in a deep breath, stroking his forehead under the cuff of his black watch cap. “This house was always – perched.” His hands in black knit gloves with the fingertips removed. “Now, for want of a better word, we’re falling.”

“Falling,” says the man with the gun.

“The gate,” says Michael. “The piazza. They’re still there. Here. But your angel’s stopped that up.”

“So give me Leir,” says the man with the gun, as Jessie blurts “Leo!” and then, huddled back against the wall, “Ysabel.” Not looking at the man with the gun. “Where are they?”

“And our Lauren,” says the woman at the other end of the sofa.

“Out there,” says Jo.

“I suppose they’re falling, too,” says Michael, “further,” and he shakes his head suddenly, “up, further in. For want of better words.”

“Shut up,” says the man with the gun. “Already. Dammit.” His cheeks gone ashen, yellowed, held tightly stiff, as if his face might break. “You’re a wizard,” he says to Michael.

“A poor one, if at all,” says Michael. “I was once an architect. The best word for me now, perhaps, is host?” He looks up at the man with the gun. “I know of Mr. Leir, but only by reputation. He’s never set foot in this house, I can assure you.”

“That was no. Goddamn. Memory,” says the man with the gun, and he’s pulled it out, he’s pointing it now at Michael. “I saw my brother being put in the ground.” The gun dips. He lifts it again. “In a goddamn wooden box. We are about the Lord’s work. All the signs pointed to here. Here. He called that angel down, his own. Damn. Self. So tell me! How come it’s there, if he’s dead and buried? How could it be?”

The sound of the wind hasn’t changed at all.

“I don’t know, John,” says Michael, looking down. His hollowed cheeks salted with stubble. “If it wasn’t a memory, it has nothing to do with this house.”

“Sinjin,” says the woman at the other end of the sofa.

“Not now, Jasmine,” says Michael. The gun’s wavering jerking toward her, then him, back to her again. “On me, John. Tell me more about Ezra.”

“Ezra,” says Bottle John, and the gun swings back from Jasmine past Jo to point again at Michael. “How did you know that. Ezra.”

“A poor wizard indeed who couldn’t hear it,” says Michael. At the other end of the sofa Jasmine’s getting to her feet, the quilt clutched tightly about herself. “Take it away from him, Sinjin,” she says. “We haven’t the time.”

“She doesn’t have anything to do with us, John,” says Michael, sitting up, standing slowly. “None of them do. On me, John. Just you and me.” His hands in those black knit gloves held out to either side, his spindly arms swallowed by the wide loose sleeves of his pullover. Jasmine’s stooping, one hand holding the quilt in place, scooping something up from the floor, a T-shirt dress, a blond Batgirl printed on it, purple and grey. She lets it fall. Bottle John’s saying “No, wait” and the gun jolts from Michael to Jasmine her quilt dragging on the bare plank floor as she walks up to Jo by the railing and the blank dark beyond and the hissing wind.

“John, John don’t,” says Michael, stepping along the sofa, putting himself between the gun and Jasmine. “On me, John.” At Bottle John’s feet Jessie’s drawing her feet under herself, leaning, pushing herself down the wall under those snapshots away from him as he lowers the gun in fits and starts. “Leir,” he’s saying. Wiping his eyes roughly with his free hand. “Give the sorcerer to me. The angel’s satisfied and this is over.”

“We’ll talk about that, John,” says Michael. “I promise.”

Jasmine’s gripping the porch railing, giving it a shake. It’s solid. She’s thickset, short, a head or so shorter than Jo. Jo’s back is to the railing, watching as Jessie slowly, carefully stands, rustling those snapshots behind her.

“Will you let the others leave?” says Michael, his hands still out to either side, his voice gentle, calm, loud enough just to be heard over the wind. Bottle John’s wiping his eyes again with his thumb, his gun now pointed at the floor. “Jasmine,” says Michael. “Take the girls. Head back to the Heart. Wait there.”

“No,” says Jasmine.

“On me, John, on me,” says Michael as the gun comes up. “Please, Jasmine, for their sake – ”

“I am not going to huddle away somewhere while you try to save whatever you can reach, Sinjin.” She aims a small sly smile at Jo beside her. “What do you think? Shall we go get our neighbors?”

Before Jo can answer, Michael says, “You’ll lose yourselves.”

“And you can’t say how long this house will hold,” says Jasmine. The wind tugs at the quilt down by her ankles. Her calves streaked with dark hair.

“The sorcerer!” roars Bottle John. “Give me Leir! And all this ends!” Jasmine’s grabbed Jo’s hand in hers, and Jessie’s shrinking back against that wall, and “Keep it on me!” cries Michael, coughing. “I’m completely at your mercy,” he says when he catches his breath. “Let them go. Keep the gun on me.”

The gun’s pointing squarely at his chest.

“All right,” says Bottle John.

“Girl,” says Jasmine after a moment. She’s looking up at Jessie. “Come on over here.” Jessie’s looking at Jo, and Jo her hand still in Jasmine’s nods quickly, jerkily. Jessie takes a slow small step away from the wall and another, longer, and another, faster, and another, half-running by the time she makes it to the railing. Bottle John doesn’t watch her go. He doesn’t look away from Michael. Michael doesn’t look away from Bottle John.

“What’s going to happen?” says Jessie, taking Jo’s other hand.

“I don’t know,” says Jo to Jessie.

“Three of us, three of them,” Jasmine’s saying. “Those are good numbers.” Still holding Jo’s hand in hers she tugs the quilt loose from about her shoulders and unwinds it. The wind hauls it up in her grip like a flag snapping over the railing. She lets it go.

Yanked and fluttering dropping tumbling rising up again it falls away from them further and further into that hissing darkness. Jo one hand in Jasmine’s one in Jessie’s mouth open watches it, a scrap of color beating like a moth against the black.

“Well?” says Jasmine. One hand on the railing pulling a leg up to balance awkwardly sitting on it still holding Jo’s hand in hers. Jessie’s looking back at the low wide doorway, at Bottle John standing in it, blowing great bullish breaths in and out through his nose. “My shoes,” she says, looking down at her bare feet.

“Leave ’em!” cries Jasmine over the wind. “Take nothing you can’t stand losing!” Jo’s already kicked a leg up and over the railing, sits a-straddle, black boot dangling over the edge. “Come on,” she says to Jessie.

But Jessie’s leaning back toward the sofa, toward Michael and John, and she opens the fist she’s clenched about the scrap of black lace, and she tosses the underwear onto the T-shirt dress left crumpled on the bare plank floor, Batgirl’s face smiling up from a wrinkle. She turns and sits up on the railing, still holding Jo’s hand.

“Come back,” says Michael Lake.

“Keep the lights burning,” says Jasmine, and she jumps, and Jo jumps, and Jessie jumps.

The drop of light far off shapes a sound, the sound shapes a shout, a letter, the letter a mouth, the mouth stretched wide and straining shapes a face, a pale face, squinted eyes glinting among the wrinkles crimping the bridge of its nose, a single curl of lank grey hair sprung atop the empty furrows of its forehead. That face drags in its wake a body small and sinewy arms spread wide fingertips fluttering in the wind of his passage falling flying headlong down the length of a narrow residential street past cars all unremarkable, grey sedans parked in shadows before houses with dim white walls and the same blank windows over and over and over again, and the light grows about him bright and white and his shout is answered by a blast of trumpets and the roar of a host of soldiers saluting the dawn. He draws his arms in tight against the force of his fall and tumbling rolls over into himself, covering his shout with his hands.

The freshly painted red gate rings and quivers like a bell setting the old paned windows hung to either side of it a-sway and something falls to the brush at its base with a howl and a thump.

“Huh,” grunts Mr. Keightlinger, standing still by the black car, arms still held up crossed before his face upturned in the glare from all those feathers and eyes hanging ponderously above him. Sprigs of hair have worked loose from the club of his ponytail and float gently about his head in the still air. His sunglasses still in place. He doesn’t look to see what fell.

Mr. Charlock lurches to his feet staggers to one side then the other fetching up against a gatepost clinging to it with one hand clutching his head. “My skull,” he bellows. Mr. Keightlinger’s black shoe scuffs gravel against pavement as he shifts his stance. The only other sound the far-off hiss of rushing wind. “Fucking tectonic,” says Mr. Charlock, pushing off the gate to blunder onto the path beneath it. He is quite naked. Swaying a little blinking thickly at Mr. Keightlinger’s back. “Hello to you too,” he snorts.

The cords stand out in Mr. Keightlinger’s neck. Inside his beard his lips part and he ducks his head with the effort.

“No, no, don’t mind me,” snaps Mr. Charlock. “Can’t even manage to keep it together until I get back here, third fucking jaunt in ten minutes and this one – you have any idea how cold it gets out there?”

“Hello,” growls Mr. Keightlinger.

“You? Were right, by the way.” Mr. Charlock brushes a leaf from his shoulder. “John Wesson did have a brother. So I forgot.” Stretching, working his head back and forth. “But he’s been dead for years so I’m still gonna have to call that one for me. On a technicality.” Turning on wobbly feet to look back through the gate. A luxurious confusion has gathered itself from windows and doors and polished wood, roofs of gleaming tin and glass lit up by dozens of warmly gold lamps, trees winding in and out of the rooms built around them. “Whoa,” says Mr. Charlock.

Mr. Keightlinger’s shifted back another inch or so more toward the car with another gravelly scrape.

“So he went in there, right?” says Mr. Charlock. “Bottle John. After something, something he could find quick, because Junior here,” jerking a thumb over his shoulder, “is primed to wipe this place off the map. Something quick, something obvious, something that wasn’t anywhere else we went today…” He shrugs. “Fucked if I know.”

“Pants,” spits Mr. Keightlinger.

“Well I couldn’t fucking bring them with me, could I?” says Mr. Charlock. “Or my glasses neither. I gotta go in there shorn of arms and armor, I’m the one has to rescue the Bride so our boss doesn’t eat us for breakfast, I gotta go tell an old friend I accidentally killed his dead brother, and all you have to do is wrestle with this sorry excuse for an angel.” He stalks toward the open door of the teahouse. “Have a little sympathy, would you?”

Groaning with the effort Mr. Keightlinger forces one foot forward an inch or so, leaning into the step as the angel above shrinks back eyes rolling. “Collar,” he manages to say. Hanging his head shaking it turning to spare a glance over his shoulder he says it again, “Collar,” but Mr. Charlock’s already inside.

Table of Contents

M.E. Traylor    15 March 2011    #

Oh, whoa. All the pieces of geography in these scenes are finally coming together in my head.

  Textile Help