Mal Vester had a pa who died in the Australian desert after drinking all the water from the radiator of his Land Rover. His momma had died just like the coroner said she had, even though he had lost the newspaper clipping that would have proved it. Not lost exactly. He had folded up the story and put it in the pocket of his jeans for one year and one half straight because they were the only pants he had and the paper had turned from print into lint and then into the pocket itself and then the jeans had become as thin and as grey as the egg skins his momma had put over his boils when he was little.
He still had the jeans—spread out flat on the bottom of his suitcase but they were just a rag really, not even a rag but just a few threads insufficient even to cover up a cat hit in the street.
The coroner, in absolving anyone or everyone of guilt in Mal’s mother’s death, had stated to the press, represented by a lean young man in a black suit with a nose blue and huge as a Doberman pinscher, that
the murky water and distance from the shore precluded adequate witnessing of the terminal event. If the victim were in the process of having her upper extremity avulsed by a large fish she would have had little opportunity to wave or to render an intelligent vocal appraisal of her dealings at that particular moment... Death being unavoidable and by misadventure...
Mal thought the wording cold but swell.
Everyone had thought she was mucking about. It was dusk and there were hundreds on the beach ... cooking their meat, the children eating ice-cream pies, the old ones staring into the sun. There was a man washing his greyhounds in a tidal pool. The water was cold and pale, flecked with filthy foam, green like the scum of a chicken stewing. Mal was in the cottage, fixing supper, pouring hot water over the jello powder, browning the moki in the skillet oil, and next door Freddie Gomkin was burning out another clutch as he tried to coax his car up and over the hill to the flat races in Sydney.
It certainly did not seem at the time that anyone could be dying. It was not the season. It was Durban’s season.
And no one was really paying any attention. She was by herself in water no deeper than her ribs, 100 feet down the beach from the public conveniences. And she disappeared. Someone later said that they thought they saw her disappearing. But they saw no fin. Blood came shoreward in a little patch, bright and neat as a paper plate. The only thing that Mal Vester had to go on of course was that she never came back. A few days later, someone caught a tiger shark and when they cut it open, there was a bathing costume stamped with a laundry mark wrapped round its intestine. But the laundry mark was traced to a Mrs. Annie White of Toowoomba who was still alive and who worked in a doll hospital.
After it happened, he was unsure that it hadn’t. He lay in the cottage and didn’t know what to do. His mother had always hated the water because she could not swim and because she was convinced that people pissed in it all the time. This had become a minor obsession with her. She went all white and shaky when she saw the women sitting on the sandbank, their legs stretched out into the waves, the water rattling in between their thighs. Mal was eleven and she held him close. The beach was no place to bring up a fatherless child by god she always said. Snorkels and men spitting. Women shuffling behind towels, dropping their clothes. Bleeding and coughing. Hair everywhere and rotting sandwiches. Unmentionables coming in with the tide.
He lay on a rolling cot and struck his hips with a loose fist. The moki was dumped charred into the sink. The clocks ran down. He moped about the cottage, practically starving to death while he thought of his mother and how she smelled. She had sung to him—all the American hits—
There ain’t nothing in the world
But a boy and a girl
And love, love, love...
Accompanying herself with salad spoons. It had not been long ago that he had squirmed between her breasts, chewing on a smooth flat dug, smelling food, night spent somewhere by something in the branches. It was like sucking a penny.
Nothing ever came to him directly. Nothing occurred outright. The things that had changed him were blurred and discreet and this gave the life that yet remained for him to live a strange unwieldiness and improbability. Death was not thorough. It had no clean edges to it. And all that love and responsibility left behind—mewing and forever lost.
The spleen weighs 150 Gm. The capsule
is wrinkled, thin and red-purple. The
cut surface shows vascular congestion.
The lymph nodes and bone marrow are not
remarkable. The liver weighs 1500 Gm.
It is red-brown, smooth and glistening.
They had been farming in the desert for one year; the man tall and ropey-limbed with the studs of his blue jeans shining around his hips and the heels of his boots making broad coffin holes in the sand; the woman sulky, pulling spinifex spines out of her skinny legs, rubbing her soiled ankles. She nearly drove him mad, wanting him to press his ear against her belly to hear the heart beat. Sometimes hit was and sometimes hit weren’t, he told her. Sometimes hit growled at him like any old mutt. She’d been eating wormy flour and was imagining things. She’d only gained three pounds.
But she was sure. The wolf, hating emptiness, fills his belly with mud and then disgorges it when he finds food. The woman hates emptiness. The woman is a glass waiting to be filled and her belly is heavy with hope before the seed. For a time, little Mal had been blood and air and sour dough, but then her breasts were swinging with yellow milk. She dreamt of things that her man had never told her. She dreamt of snow which she had never seen. She dreamt of eating books and knew that someone would die soon.
Mal himself, one noon, had dropped early from the womb with a full head of hair and a face white and soft as a candle dripping but what they believed to be his baby chortlings were only the mice clicking and ticking in the stove. For days he had no features at all. For weeks he still seemed unborn, his little eyes all pupil and of a peculiar green like something wedged in a privy like weeds.
His eyes stayed funny. They were not strong and they were somehow ill-timed like a gesture of empty hands. His momma said that the heat and the weather had wrecked her honey’s eyes just as the heat and the weather had wrecked her fine bone-handled hairbrush. She said that her honey’s eyes were weak because his daddy had never quit doing with her.
His momma told him things were never what they seemed so it made no difference anyhow how much his eyes could see.
The man was never there in daylight and the child’s only memory of him were his jeans, hanging on a hook, the leather boots not quite touching the floor, like the boots of a hanged man, extending up to the empty knee sockets, the jeans being plastered inside the boots by sweat and greasy creek clay, the cloth stringy in the hide. At night the child saw the pale torso quivering over his mother while the hips and legs dangled in shadow on the wall, and he saw it drop soundlessly like a white bird turning out of a storm.
In the morning he was not there. Only his mouth was on the taste of the fork stabbed into a pan of fatty mutton.
One night he was brought back dead on the haunch of a horse. The horse’s legs were like the stems of tall flowers in the moonlight and the child could see that his throat had turned blue and that his brain had risen up and come out of a rent in his skull, hanging outside, white and lacy stiff like the coral sold in Sydney shops. Little Mal rubbed his eyes with ragged nails and the sight swung to the left and disappeared. He opened his mouth wide and stuffed the curtain in, kneeling on his mattress, frail scabby child with warm and gritty hair and he saw them truss his father up in canvas and bury him in the ground.
In daylight he dug on the other side of the house. For what if he should search and find nothing? What if there should be no grave full?
The heart weighs 350 gm. There
is dilation of both chambers.
The superior and inferior venae
cavae, portal and hepatic veins
are patent. The valvular measurements
are within normal limits.
The myocardium is a homogeneous red-brown.
He was an orphan with no distant kin and the house on the harbor began to smell like a kennel. He was eleven and a half and he began drinking gin, threatening motorists by falling in front of their cars. Being loved had taken up more time than he would have ever thought possible. His hair and legs grew long. His teeth became furry as stones in a brook. He ate his bread by the sea and cast the crusts upon the water. The world was Mal’s grey graveyard and the rain ran into the sea from a sky pale as a winding sheet. The rain rang and sang off the prawners’ slick jackets. It drummed upon the sand and upon his bony jaw.
For Mal had learned in his brief joyless life that nothing is faithful and that one needn’t have a body to be able to mourn, for death is everywhere. Cyanide fills the peach pit. Meningitis in a napkin fold and polio on the wet shower boards. Eternity is in the evening air.
He read in a book that King Henry died from over-eating lampreys and that Princess Kristila succumbed from under-eating greens. There’s no way to account for people’s tastes. He read in the Sun that a farmer had a stroke in his pigpen and not a trace was found. Just his hat and a sack of untouched corn. There’s no way to account for the taste of things.
At night he would have noisy odorous and colorful nightmares that would hurl him out of bed and into the wall. He would trot to and fro in the dark, tiny rhumba steps, his toes curled in the cold, his long yellow nails cracking against debris. At last his mind would clear and he would not be able to remember what had frightened him so.
For the most part, people were kind to him. They smiled at him and didn’t smash his windows. Occasionally they left something in a covered dish or a sealed jar on the window ledge. But they were uneasy about him. He had a great absence of presence—a horrorful past, an uncertain future. He ran and the dust kicked up on the roadway, hissing like the rain on a searing day.
And it became spring and Mal was pubescent. He needed razor blades. He was very lean and the lack of love lay open on his face like a wound. Even though he smelled like a melon and was skittery as a bat, the girls found him attractive with his thick pretty hair and his way of chewing gum. His boy moanings were heard as he ran through the groves of kurajong trees. He was seen to have pollen in his hair.
It was spring and for days there was a black, large and silent dog sitting in front of his cottage. He had dug his paws deeply into the murky lawn, his tail fell in the direction of the sea, his haunches were hairy and drooping like ferns. The dog was very polite and very silent but he was regarded suspiciously by everyone and taken as a bad sign. No one had ever seen the dog before. He was a stranger and black as oblivion. Mal Vester never seemed to notice him which made them believe that the animal was his doom and gloomy future, visible because unavoidable. The dog was waiting for a bitch in heat. When the bitch didn’t present herself, the dog went away. He was very polite and from another town, but by that time, everyone was convinced that he was not a normal dog.
Mal Vester was fourteen and he switched from gin to rye. Rice from weddings, confetti from the holidays were deep in his thick yellow hair. He went everywhere unasked in a soft sweater too small for him and trousers unraveling at the crotch. He sewed them up with red thread which was all he had. He wore a grey shirt buttoned at the throat and a string tie held by a steer raised from tin. He had bruises beneath his eyes. In the homes with young daughters, fathers lay sleepless and frantic, for when need is on the loose, running like a hungry hound, how does one protect the loved from love?
Freddie Gomkin’s wife, who had a face like an ewe, gave birth to twins in January, when everyone knew that poor Fred had been gelded in the war...and gassed...and that he had a plate in his head and a glass eye and rubber bags hanging inside the clothes he wore. They knew that he was hardly a survivor at all. His only lusts were two—for dying and a winning pony—but he was happy with his heirs. He gave a party with brandy and beer, and although he didn’t say a word, one could tell that he was pleased with the way his life was moving along, each day with its noon and now all those noons behind him, the days being maneuvered properly and with skill, his life moving along just like a real life, just like anybody’s.
Mal was not invited but he came, with the water slapped onto his hair running into his ears, crouched with his elbows on the heating unit, gathering up the room with his slovenly eyes. The brandy rocked like mud in the paper cups. The wife smiled, the tip of her tongue curving shyly before her bad teeth. Mal wanted to see the twins but he was told by someone that they were in the pantry sleeping. The door was not hung properly but was pulled shut all the same with wadded newspapers sealing up the spaces. Otherwise the house was neat and bright and the sun shone in all the corners. The floor was white as a tub with sunlight. There were no bugs or rats. There were no hairs on the women’s chins or dried nostril grime on the men. Everyone was there dressed soberly in brown and white—white shirts and dresses and faces and hands, brown trousers and beads and boots and hair—brown and white and moving like a bread pudding.
But there was no sign of the babies. No prints or droppings. No bark torn off the rough pine walls. Or cloth snagged on a splintered seat.
They all had brought gifts but none were being used right. Mal had brought an empty egg painted in bright colors with a string run through the pin holes. He imagined that the babies could bat it with their hands. But Freddie’s wife had hung it on the Christmas tree, which was still up but dropping, falling but not over, pale as wheat now, incongruous; leaning like a person ill at ease, the berries strung there rotting. The egg rolled back and forth in the air. The needles clicked as they struck the floor.
The young girls bent over the twins’ toy that lay by the sink on the breadboard. Something furry—a rabbit’s foot. They drank hot sugared water, giggled at the spot where Mal was drinking his brandy down.
“A door is not a door until it’s closed,” Mal kindly thought, squinting at the colored funnies that hid his nest of young. The papers were old and crumbling. The news was history. The missing persons, listed in rows tiny and in code like the cricket scores, had all been found.
“Oh what is there about him that makes him so worthwhile...” the young girls thought, their legs twitching and joggling below their laps.
Everyone was ogling the spot where he was as though they wanted to sit there too but wouldn’t. Mal swallowed his brandy, pushing his face deep inside the cup. He licked the bottom dry and put it down. He was sorry for the babies in the black pantry, rocking in their cribs like corn. Had they destroyed the babies he had made? Had she taken his sack of seed, tied it up and chucked it out as she would the gizzard bag in the pit of a grocery hen?
He walked away. No one said good-bye.
The kidneys are equal in size
and shape. The capsules strip
with ease. The esophageal mucosa
is grey-white. No food is present
other than a few intact, cooked
The day had been very blue and the sea black but now the sea became blue and fearful like a shotgun’s bore and the sky became black and scuddy with clouds. The water in the harbor began to pitch and foam as though it were about to give up its dead. Mal was pushed into town by the wind and he stood in a doorway and watched the storm. The doorway led to a mud-room and the mud-room to a cheap restaurant, filled with cowboys and wax flowers. The chaps of the cowboys smacked wetly as they walked. Little pieces of food flew in the air between them as they talked. The place was warm and steamy and stank of sheep. He sat at a tiny table for two in a corner by the window and a running toilet. No one bothered Mal Vester. No one asked for his order.
He was the only guest who was not a cowboy. Never had he wanted to be a cowboy. The cowboys were chewing and laughing and cutting the wire stems of the plastic flowers with their huge pocket knives. They threw the flowers at one another and entwined them in their lank and dripping hair. The knives turned and sawed white and watery like fish and the flowers fell clumsily into their hands and then onto the soaked and puddled floor. Wool had become embedded in the wounds of their fingers, spun out black and coarse like a paw’s webbing. The blood of lambs lay caked beneath their nails.
On their dark arms they had tattoos. Legends of roses and tigers. Puce needle diggings. Stain of capillaries. The muscled petals that women love to touch.
But who knows what good might come from the least of us? From the bones of old horses is made the most beautiful Prussian blue.
It rained and rained. Mal wrung out his cuffs and watched the dim day through the steamy window. Someone had written a word on the glass. NICE, it said. The street was buckling. The rain was clattering like teeth in a cold mouth. Swings moved between poles in the park without children and the sea slammed against the pilings and carried off the crabs. Everything in the world was slick and trembling like a gland, like something gutted, roped and dangling from a tree.
Mal’s eyes were fogging up like they always did. He touched them carefully, worked out a piece of grit. He bent his wide lashes back, propping them up with spit. One eye leaked something and it ran gooey down his cheek. He was too old to cry. He fingered the small paper cones of mustard and cream and salted his hand. The table was the best in the house for it offered a view of the street, but the toilet ran on and the wooden doors of the stalls banged in the draft. The menu was glued beneath the glass table-top. Moisture had soaked it with brown. Cuttlefish was unintelligible. As were the fried breads and the list of cola drinks. Actually, Mal couldn’t make out any of the words at all. Life is a filthy bill of fare. Death by dyslexia. Still, everything is pretty much the same.
He tried thinking of things as though he could remember them. He could not recollect being born. He had depended upon the aberrant memories of others, upon their eccentric recall. His momma had told him that his little dick was a bright yummy bow like a piece of salt water taffy. His daddy had said nothing before he went away. He had straddled the baby as it crept across the ground as though little Mal were a gulch he had no intention of falling into.
The cowboys ate, wickering through their noses, the roses lurching at will on their hairy chests. The coach came in from the racing trials at Milk Creek. He wore a hooded jacket of purple silk and looked like a priest with a whistle hanging around his neck instead of a cross. His day had stopped three years ago although the school still kept him on. He ordered a pint and a meat pie.
“I went crook at them for running back along the bank instead of swimming,” he said, “but how was I to know the kid had drowned.”
He persisted in teaching the butterfly. His trunks sopped beneath his trousers leaving a stain like a map. He persisted. For the butterfly could not cease to exist simply because one of his charges had died, with his white membranous arms flailing in the current, with his young ribs swelling like hoops in the sunny water... The boy had been doing fine until he drowned. He had been making good time. When retrieved, he looked quite ordinary except for the tips of his fingers.
The coach ate quickly. The pie juices ran down his jowl. Mal, embarrassed, looked away, out into the street again, through the runny lines of NICE. A waitress went by, flicking her tail like a bird. On her lip there was a mole with two long hairs that drooped and crossed prettily upon her teeth when she smiled. But she did not smile at Mal Vester. She went about her work with a vengeful dish rag. She ran it across his folded hands, dug it into the knuckle cracks as though she were scouring a fork. His poor hands reeked and wobbled. They leapt across the table, almost falling off the edge like a pair of gloves.
He pretended he didn’t notice.
The cowboys were mopping their plates with cake; the coach tapped his groin uncertainly and wriggled in his chair. From a hole in the wall, plates of food were shoved, the fingers lingering on the sandwiches, snipped off a dangling piece of lettuce with grace and love.
Outside in the rain, a hand waved feebly from the gutter. Mal was uncertain. He rubbed away the NICE. The street was empty. Everything was turning into a yellow dusk and the rain ran down with a tired sound over the small lame hand that flopped and sank. He ran out startled through the doors, falling in the mud-room, skidding along on his ear. He picked himself up gently as though he were someone else and ran on to the gutter, his cheekbones stinging, string and ashes hanging from his light eyebrows. The air was yellow. The tops of trees. The plastic protecting the druggist’s window candy. The edge of town run off the hill. Did he have a liver ailment? Had he slid by error down a commode? He yelled and stumbled on.
The errant hand flopped like an empty sack. A bird’s nest floated by, trim and watertight, softly struck the fingers and was gone. There were no grates on the city’s sewer holes. Things fell down there and lived beneath the town—dung black ponies and shit brindle cats. Fish with white bones that shone through the gills. Eventually all were tumbled away, moved by the moon and tidal heaves—horny hoofs and claws and plushy meat out to the sharks banking like birds off the seaweed ledges.
Mal knelt down in the rushing water, grabbing and tugging at the hand soft as pork. The fingers, old-maidish and ringless, skinny and worn down, did not grip him back and he felt sick, all that salt he had licked in the restaurant rising in the back of his throat, his eyes wet and ringing in his head. It was like pulling the glug from a shower-drain. The arm came out stringy and then a little grey head, rising peeved and fierce with lobeless ears. For a moment, he thought it was his dear momma, for she had been lobeless too, all ear itself and open mouth, hearing and saying and kissing him dry. He almost dropped her back in his joy, for one must not dwell on differences. The way to fidelity is through mistaken identity.
But of course it was not his momma, this slippery gloomy wretch that he had hauled onto the street. Quite a crowd had assembled by then to witness the rescue and the old lady lay drying in a muttering circle of hobbled delight, her small feet lopped over the curbstone, her skinned but bloodless knuckles up and rapping at the air.
The next day she was buried, for she had been found dead during the night with peroxide burns around her mouth.
There is no evidence of
trauma about the head. The
central nervous system is
For nothing is faithful and nothing stays saved. The watery caul of our birth protects us from nothing and one can die by drowning beyond the sight of a sea.
The black jelly in the roadway was once off and running warm through the trees. And somewhere a place waits for us...
Mal was sixteen and a grateful town sent him to America, for although they all agreed that his intentions were good, there was no denying the traumatic concurrence of his adolescence with death and flood and pregnancy and now all the lambs in the pastures starving and dropping on their way to nurse. The men spat blood in their dinner soup for their daughters paid them no attention and were down at the laundromat, dancing to small radios, picking the lint from their soapy lacy things before the frightened boys, and their women lay immobilized in bed biting at the pillowcases and listening to the rabbits eat the flowers up.
The mayor had a high faint voice and cancer in a nasty place. The town hall was cold and listing, filled with poisoned saucers for the mice, a structure that had been built hurriedly with the threat of constant vows in mind. Mal stood timid and sweating before the extravagant praise, tipping with the pressure of the colored medal as they pressed it to his chest, his eyes opalescent beneath the low thick lids. They appeared that day to be grey in color.
The mayor moved on his rubber donut, his mouth pink and sagging at the corner from the weight of medicine spoons, his bowels bound up, all hope lost, the town’s money gone and all his own, spent on shark nets and bubbler screens and keeping the public wards alive. And he was dying all the while. Dying, and his wife was not true, though she was taking in washing to pay for the stone, and each night for him, as he grew thinner, covering less and less space on the brass muggy bed, lisping words against the water glass, the sky turned into bright flame like wormwood falling, and now this troublesome licentious boy was out saving suicides.
There was only the mayor and Mal and the council sitting in an even row, their stomachs sick with a heavy breakfast waffle. They placed a plane ticket into Mal’s seedy pocket, some folding money... for they did not wish him any harm. Gas blew up between their lips. The health inspector had butter on his sleeve.
The mayor tenderly licked his teeth for they were white and perfect, without cavities and strong as a dog’s...
the rescue had taken place and should be suitably rewarded. It was unfortunate that the victim did not recover but beside the point. The old lady had resources that thwarted Mal's brave concern
...though one now seemed loose. He pushed his tongue against it and it lifted neatly out of its socket in the rotting gum and slid down his throat. He grew more pale than before and bolted from the room, his bony hips whirling against the desk, ripping open the drawer where hair ribbons lay tangled with a wet glue pot and discs of plaster painted like coins.
...And what is it that you protect and swaddle in your fashion? Your darling, your favorite, that part of you which you most fear for in the night?? Spine testes head breast lung eyeball?????? There’s something for everyone. Some cyst or rupture, tumor or bacillus spore, fracture or fever for us all.
...And the place that you will last recall? Abandoned fridge? Train toilet? Electrocuted pony?
For death is everywhere and the zoo-keeper waits in his soul for the mauling, the coon dog for the master’s meat, the maid for the bloody sheet...
Mal went meekly up the ramp with the nerveless calm of perfect fright and into the sky, his passport pinned above the medal to his chest, the photo punched across with green, his poor wet eyes closed but shining behind the lids like a kerchief Christ, and the plane lifted, leaving behind him all his dead, his momma in the foamy trickle, the black dog grinning on the slanting lawn, the rabbits drifting over his daddy’s hollow...
The attack occurred in a small
bay with a small watercourse at
its head. The victim was put in-
to an ambulance but because of the
steep grade leading up from the
water’s edge and the slippery sur-
face the ambulance clutch burnt
out. There were several dogs taken
in the area last week.
He wore a tan suit, too tight at the armpits. The button at his neck was split in two and kept sliding through the eyelet, exposing his white throat. He refused dinner and a magazine. He felt as though he were dying. His ears were dully popping. There was a taste of garbage at the very root of his tongue. The clouds gaped and he could see the sea wallowing black and mean, the colors changing to yellow and green over reefs and island shoals. A stewardess swished by, smiling, he knew, like a lunatic. He crouched in his smelly seat. He lifted his heels off the floor. Would they band him like a bird? Tattoo his lip with a number as they did the polar bear? It wasn’t a question of affection or protection. They would just want to know how far he had gone by the time he died. She stopped and dropped her hands down to his hips. He looked at her beseechingly and attempted to withdraw himself into his spine. His lap seemed as vulnerable as a child’s winter mitten... untidy soiled serge ...as the fingers advanced, long and blue near the nails, four like a fork, with a thumb the spoon, her mouth full of Sen-Sen swinging by his ear, ready to masticate, to subdue him forever. She scowled and fumbled, mistakenly sticking her finger into his navel. It dropped in a good inch like a score in a game. He was full of orifices. Like a pinball machine. They could groove or notch or tag him anywhere. They had ways. They could scoop out his brain, he figured, and no one would ever know, because they were so clever, because they left wounds with no scars.
She cinched him up and strolled away. The belt was buckled too tightly, Mal knew, having bisected the cheese spread sandwich he had brought aboard in his pocket. His discs were bunched like poker chips. But he knew that he was safe, that his fate was not happening yet, and the blood began to course down again from his eyes to the points of his stiff body.
The plane bucked. A baby across the aisle spit up into a National Geographic. Mal’s stomach rolled and rose, larding his ribs with the fat of its wall. On the sea it was raining and blowing. He could imagine the storm down there. He crossed his chest and closed his eyes. He could see the tankers going down tonight; the tuna seiners with the nets sweeping over the dead men’s eyes; women on yachts in diaphanous gowns, crying in their cabins, their earrings flying away in the howl, their sharp heels wedging in the decks...
A woman was holding the sick baby. “Do you think we’ll crash?” she said to Mal. “Do you think this is the end for all of us? And me with my man in Hawaii?” Her voice rose, humming like a set of wings. The child spit all over her hands. “He’s so young he don’t smell yet. So I guess we can be thankful for that at least.”
Mal didn’t answer. He found his charm in looking grave. He had difficulty focusing on the child, whose nose was driping, whose little face was the color of the seat. His hands were swelling. His eyes were silting up. When the woman realized that he wasn’t going to answer, she shifted her eyes up and to the left, to pretend that she had never been addressing him at all, and wiped her hand’s on the baby’s shirt.
“And me,” she said, “only twenty and my sugar a soldier and far away.”
The plane was being swatted around as though it were in the web of some enormous paw. A slice of jelly roll slid off a tray and flopped along the aisle, picking up in its cakey wet a bobby pin. Dust balls from the runner. Cigar ash. The stewardess had disappeared and the passengers began a slow liturgical wail. The lights blinked on and off, and the baby held his breath, the bridge of his nose turning blue.
The young woman pinched the child’s cheeks. “I wish you was older so you could chew gum. That’d make you feel a whole lot better.” She was a mother and serene, wearing a dress with a sweet round collar spotted with drool, her head full of bone and small thoughts breaking softly. She was not really alarmed about the storm, though her mouth was dry, one incisor snagging upon her lip. Sooner or later, Mal knew, the child would be left somewhere, in a movie theater or behind the matches and soap, abandoned without malice or intent, vaguely remaindered like potatoes on a plate. But he would survive, he would manage, because this was a smart looking baby, thin and desperate. Temples beating on grimly. Long ears throbbing like antennae. Her man was in Hawaii in flowered bikini trunks, with the beach in his sheets, with her grey from poor nutrition too much rice and peanut butter Mal knew having never eaten properly himself, her skin grey and slick and cool as a trout, and the child would just crawl off someplace, into some orange moon of light and be taken in by natives, growing up to dynamite fish. For sharks, he’d learn to chum first, to bring them in, and then to lob grenades into their mouths. He would learn like Mal must, to rectify, and the meat would run like milk. But with a woman he’d be fine. He’d rinse off his hands in clear tap water.
Mal poked at his eye with a grievous thumb, then set to work weeding his eyelashes with his knuckles. Loosening, they made the very slightest pop a rough thicket with a pure white root. Through the plane’s tiny window, past the oily prints of former heads, the discarded complexions of weary passengers, there was nothing but an echoing pallor. White and foaming. Mistaken for a glass of someone else’s seltzer water, Mal was being downed. Had he been born with a caul they had to cut? He could not remember. But what would protect him from the air? His mother was ripping along on the tides beneath him, far below the surface where there is no wind or breakage. His mother was trying to keep up, he knew, but the Captain had a lisp, and his medal had unloosened and was stabbing at his heart.
In the hold, the pet dogs had given up howling and yapping at the engines. They had always lived unrealistically. Indignant with trust. They curled up tight with their noses deep beneath their tails.
But the storm had a range, an appointed round, a latitude and longitude responsible to charts, and the plane passed through. The day bobbed up—an invalid’s morning, with the light like that after fever and chill, sharp and astonishing, white as a winding sheet. Everyone wiped up and retreated into bad habits. With the soul sinking back to a place between the armpit and the rib. No need to die when you’ve done it all up to it. A woman mouthed dreamily the hairs of her arm. The smell of death, that odor of sick animals, sweet like a nut and sulphurous, was taken up by comfy flatulence in rubber and wool. Everything proper. Steeping like tea.
Mal ate his cheese sandwich. The bread was wet from his frightened hip. It had beaded up and the mess tasted warm and hybrid. With one determined wince it was gone and they were over Fiji with the music on and the woman with the baby, eying someone else, kissing him the French way in her silly head’s eye.
His heart ached as though she had bitten it with her small bright teeth. Mal the father, fatherless, rubbed his chest and squinted at the man she favored—a gentleman with a part taken out of his chin and a cast to his hairline, scowling and untouched by her gaze, the suede patches on his elbows all slick from a puzzling use. She had always wanted someone with a fetish or a profession, not a boy like Mal who loved without method or distinction, who, in a country where everyone had to be spoken and accounted for in some manner, was neither a cowboy or a surfer or a hunter and no one’s apprentice either, who had been banished from Australia, a land which refused almost nothing at all, rejected from Australia where even the poisoned rabbits are left lying on the land.
He certainly looked like a professional man. A man with a hobby or a cure for something. He had shiny eyes. Sun-cracked lips. An enormous blue and red tiepin upon which was engraved
Mal began to hiccough nervously, orange cheese smell scrabbling at the back of his throat. He gulped and tried to hold his breath but air dribbled out between symmetrical gaps between two hind teeth where his smile—when he smiled which was seldom—stopped. He gripped the sides of the seat, burping softly, the cheese rising stultifyingly in his nose bubbly like a bog. The professional man arose and lumbered to a rear compartment, tipping toward Mal as he hurried along, his right knee dipping just before he crashed against his shoulder, braiding Mal’s torso like a rope while the part of him below the seat belt remained primly secure. The strange tiepin rapped sullenly against his eye, glowing like the eye of God. Mal lifted up his hand and snagged one finger in the wide buttonholes of the man’s tweeds, tearing the nail below the quick. Wordless, the man bored on, while the girl applied fresh lipstick and the baby spit up once more and again into another magazine as though this was its life’s sole occupation. Mal sucked his hand and the tears rose like an animal’s, awash and gleaming in the sockets, unfallen.
He was frightened by the way people treated him. As though he were a table or a chair or a rock in the street, but worse than that, because at least those things they would use or avoid. Treating him instead as though they couldn’t see him. As though he had already moved on and they were performing over the space he had vacated. And he was going to America where mice were found in bottled Coca-Cola straight from the machine. Where girls were scalped by wheels and engines that stacked celery threshed wheat picked cherries hulled pecans. Where there were circuses and rodeos and games of skill, and people knowing things he would never even think about.
Would he ever be able to escape? The dead boys ran away to sea misunderstanding everything, for all they had wanted was the returning. Would he ever find a cute jelly to love him, to see him for what he was? Would he ever get the cure and set his momma’s heart to rest?
He ordered a whiskey. It came in a tiny bottle with a tiny glass and napkin like a child’s tea set. There was a little paper dish with six peanuts in it. He ordered three more whiskeys and between swallows, sucked on his hand, trying to settle the nail back in place with his tongue.
...his sweet momma who had danced with him, guiding him through the rooms of the settling house, into musty closets where moths drifted into his ears, dancing and rocking around and around, his nodding head clunking against her knobby pelvic bone. Riding on her wide fly-pocked feet when he tired. Around and around to the sounds of warped records. Huge birds resting one-legged on the lawn. Smell of low tide. Child bouncing a rubber ball against the privy wall.
His poor momma eaten alive as she worked the sand out of her suit. Who only the day before had trimmed his nails and swabbed his eyes. They were always hemorrhaging mildly from his digging at them. They itched and burned. Along with his teeth and something deep within his ears that he could not get at.
His sweet momma, her sharp bones bruising him every time she drew near, mending him every day, combing his thick hair with her fingers, combing and sweeping and patting it back until Mal thought he was dying, he felt so fine.
He ordered two more whiskeys and brought his hands in close to his chest as the man with the elbow patches shambled back up the aisle and didn’t even hesitate before he lowered himself into the empty seat beside the girl. He smiled at her and his teeth were all gold. The tiepin rose and bound as he settled, a part of him that was not so much accessory as guide. Like those plastic balls that divers attach to their weight belts so that they will know in that black unworld in which direction the surface is.
Mal fell asleep while looking as the man turned his broad tweed back and hid the girl and baby from view.
Injuries may be received from
camels either through the bites
from side kicks even when sit-
ting down or from the animal
knocking a person over and fall-
ing upon him with the breast pad
He awoke in Los Angeles with the plane resting on its huge wheels. He was the only one on board. On the seat across the aisle was a powder puff and a rattle toy. Mal mopped up a bit of drool with his cuff, hoping he had not been sleeping with his mouth open. He was not able to disengage the buckle on his seat belt. It would have been useless to call the stewardess for the key. She was nowhere in sight and there wasn’t any place on the belt where a key would go. He writhed and writhed, the buttons on his shirt tearing away with the strain. The collar came askew. He could see rust marks from the wire hanger. He could see the slick of corn meal still embedded in the fabric where someone at the Church Relief Fund had taken the iron scorch from the sleeve.
At last he slid out beneath the belt. He dropped the two unopened bottles into his pocket and buttoned his suit coat up to the neck to conceal the torn shirt. He walked out the door and into a black canvas tube which instead of sloping downward, remained level, throwing Mal off balance, causing him to bump against the soft walls. They were damp from the hot foggy night. It was as though he had collided with one of the sweating wrestlers he had watched so often in the free Sydney gyms. Loose soaking flesh with the scaffolding of bone beneath. Eyes blinded by the smother of hairless stomachs. Everything dark as concussion. Smooth as an egg.
Mal stayed in the terminal for days, for he had no other idea of what to do. It was vast and white and teeming and timeless. He had to walk for twenty minutes just in order to find a glass that was really a window to the outside, to the day or the night and the greasy sky and the planes incessantly with steam and clamor.
The toilets and movies were free. He saw “The War Lover” fourteen times. The aisles were terribly littered and Mal smashed a tonic bottle with his boot. No one turned about. They were all sleeping, grey in the backwash of the screen. Mal wished he had a leather flight jacket like the hero. If he had a jacket like that, lined with a sheep, fitting tight and casual, he’d be able to go anywhere.
He spent a day and a half in the theatre. When he re-entered the main terminal, he felt as though he had stepped into a refrigerator. Everything white and whirring and ticking with great florescent lights. It was colder than he ever remembered it being in Australia, and he pulled his suit coat tighter across his shattered shirt.
A boy Mal’s age stood outside a luncheonette, holding out a tray of samples. Sections of wieners dipped in a yellow sauce. Pierced by toothpicks with cellophane bows. Mal sidled up and took one, jabbing his lip, in his haste, with the toothpick. He extended a grimy arm to accept another but the boy turned with the tray.
“Don’t pull that stuff on me,” he hissed. “I’ll call the cops.”
Mal turned quickly away, aiming for an orange sling chair against the opposite wall, but the boy pursued him, saying “lunk lunk lunk,” as though he were choking, as though he were speaking through his lung. Mal slid into the chair, and the boy stood a few paces off, spitting by error onto the wieners.
“Lunk lunk lunk lunk lunk,” he said. “Dope.” He stamped angrily back to his post, the yellow sauce staining his fingers, his hairline high and ragged.
Mal stayed in one section of the terminal, in one acre, bounded on the north jog by a florist, on the south by a penny arcade, a steel pony at the entrance, the paint peeled from one eye, a quarter stuck in the box mounted on its mane. He sat quietly for the most part, his knees pressed together like a girl’s, eating pressed meat on a stiff and oily bun. Along the walls there were cages of drugged cats. Tags ringing against the mesh. Like boom rings clinking against masts. Odor of piss and wood chips. Ladies took their pills at drinking fountains. Hardening lumps of Chiclets mounted all around.
He was beginning to get moles on his face. He tried to tidy himself up in the washroom, but the liquid soap, mounted in a glass bubble, screwed to the wall, irritated his skin, making his hands smell as though they had been packed in a paper trunk for the last decade. He had heard a great deal about moles. He didn’t want to violate them in any way. He changed his clothes in the washroom, putting on a worn pair of khakis and a green tee shirt. He folded the suit and put it carefully in his suitcase, over the coroner’s unreadable statement, between his momma’s hairbrushes and the only thing he had ever found in his life, a fillet knife, discovered on the beach between burnt bricks. Thin bones lying everywhere. Jaw of small fierce teeth pointing out to sea.
He sat in the plastic sling chair, touching his eyes and the slick moles, trying to think.
On the sixth day, the boy with the tray of samples came over to Mal. He was carrying brownies, each piece no bigger than a thumbnail. “I’m gonna call the man on you,” the boy snarled. “I’ve taken all I’m gonna take from you. You look so weird sittin’ there and I've taken all that I'm ever gonna take from you.”
He walked away, the brownies popping all over his tray and a few minutes later returned with a man in a grey uniform and a sweatband grid around his head where his cap had been. It looked as though a very tiny truck had been motoring around his skull. He looked slightly to the left of Mal and high, higher than Mal’s head would be even if he were standing.
“Awright,” he bawled. “Awright, whatarya trying to do, live your life in this place? Huh? Whatarya practicing here anyway?”
Mal looked wildly about and began to pant. Beneath his light shirt his shoulder blades felt like a wooden coat hanger had been sewn cleverly beneath the skin. He felt the bulk of all his bones keeping him down, weighing him to the chair and he hunched forward and panted harder.
“Since you don’t seem to be doing anything at the present,” the man said, “whyn’t you come with me and you can mow the lawn around the county jail.”
Mal shook his head. His sternum was heaving around beneath his tee shirt. He imagined it leaping through the cloth and scaring them all to death.
“Oh, then you must be waiting on somebody, huh,” the man said.
“He ain’t waiting on nobody. You’d best believe that. He’s just weird is all. Sitting here for a week. Taking advantage. Like to drive me nuts.” The boy, pale with indignation, had been clawing at the brownies. The tray was covered only with crumbs. The crumbs were blowing around and settling on everything.
“You waiting on somebody, boy?” the man asked Mal.
A girl walked out of the penny arcade. She wore a short faded dress and her hair was in a long yellow braid that hung down past her waist. The braid was tied with yarn and the loopy bow of it swayed below the hem of her dress. She wore dark glasses and yellow tennis shoes and carried a card. She walked over and stood between the man and Mal and said, “We’re together and we’re leaving. This here is my escort to Texas.”
She patted Mal on the shoulder. She smelled clean and leafy as though she’d been swimming in a lake, and Mal got up and followed her away just as though he’d been free all the time to do just that.
Walt Faulkner, sole survivor of the
factory Lincoln team, was driving like
a madman. Coming into Mexico City,
peasants lined both sides of the road 50
deep, touching the cars with their fin-
gers as they thundered past. Faulkner
never slowed his charge. He boomed thru
the tunnel of humanity flat out. Later,
when someone asked what he would have done
had he plowed into the mob, he replied,
“Turn on the windshield wipers.”
It was a large white car. A very sensual car. Hot remote white and air-cooled, chilling his knees. An orange butterfly smashed delicately on the left headlight. Mal felt loving. His thick hair fell past his eyes, socked in the hollows of his cheeks. A balloon torso of a man tilted slightly toward the tinted glass on the passenger side. A plasticine mask on the bullet shaped head a real cloth coat and a clip-on tie. Wearing a cream ten-gallon hat. The girl turned a rubber petcock where the lap should have begun, flattened him out, folded him up and put him in her saddlebag handbag.
At a Texaco station they soaped off the butterfly and pumped 26 gallons into the machine while the girl talked incessantly and fed Mal Eskimo Pies and fried chicken and honey from a cardboard box. The cold of the ice-cream sang in his teeth. The honey dripped down through his fingers and onto the cards that she showed him. One card was made of thick cardboard and on one side it said
A STRANGER IS THE WAY
and on the other side there was a drawing of a horseshoe and the words
KEEP ME SOMEWHERE IN YOUR HOME
AND YOUR LOVE WILL NEVER ROAM
“That’s what slid out of the fortune-telling machine in the arcade,” the girl said. “Same time I saw you sitting there this nickel card fell into my hand. The gypsy doll there in the corner between the hockey game and the bear shoot? You know?”
She gave him the other card. It said
ALL GAS PAID 502-306-1118
“This is how I get along. Drive anything though mostly tony cars. Cadillacs. Buicks. Lincolns. Because the people that like this service are rich and fly home and mostly old and feeble. I strip everything that’s not needed for the thing to move forward, move back and stop. Air conditioners. Stereo tapes. I swap the batteries and the tires and the jacks with junks in yards 10 or 20 miles from my drop-off point. And no one notices. I wash it up properly before I arrive. Sweep it out. Everyone’s happy as pie. Because they don’t know a thing about cars. As long as it gets them to the druggist for their Preparation H. As long as it gets them to the grave site. They’ve all got brains wrapped in prophylactics. They don’t allow nothing inside their heads. So this is how I manage. No way to make a killing but I see a lot of the country and I love to drive. Nothing I’d rather do than drive a big rocking ark like this for free. Driving a fast cool car going for places I don’t know... You got a lot of moles honey. That’s supposed to mean something, I read, though I can’t recall what. Something about something.”
Mal nodded, his cheek full of fowl wing.
“You know how to drive? No? Well, I’ll teach you.” But she never did. She did all the driving, fast and smooth and aggressive, heavy on the horn and gas, her round elbow burning in the southwestern sun, her legs set wide apart on the floorboards, hoop earrings shaking and shining, long yellow braid hanging pure as a rope from a church belfry.
She never stopped talking. It was delicious. No one had talked to him like this since his momma with her fathomless loving prattle; her words after a few years no longer performing the function of speaking to him any more but of breathing for him. Providing his head with oxygen like an iron lung. Keeping him going. Tending him fit. The lids coming down and the nostrils pinching shut. The lips moving around the fingers she thrust at him to kiss.
“Them really your eyes, honey? You didn’t get them out of one of those banks? Don’t seem to lie in your head right.”
Oh she was tough and constant, blonde lean and shiny. He touched her hair and it was soft and so yellow that he thought the color of it would come off on his fingers just as though he’d been rubbing up against a flower. She fed him for a thousand miles. He kept eating and felt weaker and weaker. Shrimp and candy bars. Peaches and grapes and whole pecan pies. Lasagne in a bucket. Loaves of salty rye. Washing it all down with vodka and orange crush as they drove. The huge car bucking and snaking through the traffic of the towns and then out onto the plains, the single note of birds leaping in his ears traveling so fast that the bird was two miles back by the time it had finished its trill.
Oh she was hard and honest with the black glasses wrapped around her eyes even in the moonless night, handling the car as though it were an extension of herself. As though it were a steel claw attached to the wrist of a gone hand. Going through toll stations, she would pay for the strangers in the car behind, jetting off in their bafflement, leaving a coil of bluish smoke.
“It confuses them,” she said. “It puts them in arrears.”
Mal squeezed her arm tentatively. There was a hard hot determined little muscle there. She took two swallows of vodka for every one of crush from a bottle of chocolaty red. She had never even asked his name. He decided that if she did, he would say it was Monza. He wedged his head beneath her armpit.
“I never did much of that,” she said and began kissing his neck, sucking up the skin beneath her teeth as though she were chewing on an artichoke, leaving round blue blossoms ringing his collarbone. She smelled so clean and distant—like something laundered in a brook and dried in the summer sun. He smelled like a wolf’s pissing tree, he knew. His navel itched and reeked. His pretty hair was wadded to his head. But the girl kept feeding him and tweaking his side. Tacos and fritters. Chili dogs and sugar crullers. Shards of potato chips quivered in his stinging gums. His mouth was stained blue with berry tarts. In Lubbock, she bought a case of bourbon and a box of fortune cookies. Mal cracked his open, eager but exhausted. The moisture from the air-conditioner dripped and beaded on the hot asphalt. There had been carelessness at the factory. A typographical error in the confection seductively creased and joined. The lines of print were overlaid, the future foundered. She shook her head and looked distressed, a bit illicit and naive in her short thin dress and canvas shoes. She turned the car out of the grocery store’s lot, away from the sun-blackened bag boy, and onto the roadway towards salt water.
She settled him into a beach house while she delivered the car. Bones of cows holding up the window sashes. Cold sand clogged in corners. Insects by the rag-wrapped pipes. Rust on the undersides of everything. Mal had bathed by the time she returned by taxi, squatting in the truncated tub, scrubbing with a pillowcase. The water was sulphurous and had steadily turned a dark green as he soaped. Not unattractive. Not without its charm. Green like his eyes might have been when they were well. Clinging tenaciously without substance to the porcelain sides. Nothing he could put his finger on.
The sea air lapped his head. He felt on holiday. As though it were Boxing Day at home. He was Monza Dong from Wollongong. The sea birds flew by in a tight clutch and she said, “It flies to Chile and then to Greenland, that bird. Them sanderlings. And they aren’t but a few inches long and tall.”
She strung some twine from the shack to a sea grape and washed out their clothes and hung them out to dry. She curled up on the mildewed sheets all pale and frail and accessible except for the black glasses wrapped around her eyes, and with her hair yellow and warm as a buttered biscuit. In the night, Mal woke dizzy to the thick braid sliding from his cheek and the call of the whippoorwill and he saw her opening the refrigerator door, the light muffled somewhere from a bulb behind the hastily stocked shelves, exposing her as she pushed her throat back to drink milk from a carton, showing just to him her small breasts and curving ribs shining in the hum. Shining like wheat in a frost... and her chest was cool when she returned, her lips cold and sour. When she touched him, it was as though she were trying to get at something else, something in the damp mattress ticking, something in the punctured foam, as though she’d push her hand right through him to get it, cupping her hand through his chest and drawing out what she preferred. Mal rolled his eyes shut. He slept fitfully. Things rode across the shiny sand. The girl’s dress rose and seized in the noiseless wind.
It is stated that a lad in Victoria,
many years ago, climbed into the en-
trance of an occupied wombat’s burrow.
The disturbed animal started to come
out and in passing the young man, feel-
ing pressure on its back, immediately
raised its back to support the supposed
fall of its roof and pressed its victim
against the roof, killing him.
She cut off her braid and astonished him by not looking any different than she had before. Sawing it off with a blunt bread knife, tying it around his collapsed and peeling waist, going back to her bourbon in the flowered coffee cup.
“If I cut it off at just the right length,” she said, “it’ll grow right back in six or so months. Like a crab making up its biggest claw.” She was great on hair and fingernails she told him. Like something in the grave.
Mal was shy. With not too much effort, he could see a withered face within it. Caulked nostrils. Little glass eyes. He hung it in the shade, poured sand in the last of the whiskey bottles and looked back at the shore where he had been watching a school of fish rising white and predisposed through a wave. The girl went back to sleeping on the beach, slung in a small depression, her cleavered hair curling around her ear lobes, her stomach pulsing like her heart, her square toenails pointing out to the fog coming off the water.
She’d later wrap the braid around him and they’d walk along the heat-heaved road, holding hands and sweating in the dark. The hair chaffed him though she washed it in shampoo and braided it fresh each day. It was gold. The tub was now a decided green. Very modern looking. His own hair was the color of walnuts and hid the painful knobs of his spine. He was frightened that it would set to smolder in the sun. At night it would seem to steam.
The road had been made cheaply with large quantities of sand and it was pocky and dangerous. Cars bottomed out. In the rains some floated and some didn’t. Everything in the area was made with sand. Houses and bridges and benches. The statue of a cow in town. Toys were filled with it. They cheated and beat at you with sand, the girl said. They treated and tempered the things you used. The sand was disappearing from the beach. All that was left were gravelly pockets and people writing ORAMIT in the smooth tidal wash, which she had seen, in letters so big they could only be for an airplane or a chopper or the Chile flying bird. She was waiting for them to make a car from sand that ran on salt water, she said, and she’d be happy as a princess then, she’d be smug and set forever. They had already made cars with frames of wood, of glass. In a wreck it would slide up under your skin like a sliver, punching into your heart as though you were a fiend. In a smash it would slice you up like a 2000 pound beer bottle. Caroming icicles. All crackling like snow on the heat of the overhead cams.
In a sand car, she said, they’d go to Florida and eat coconut ice cream. They’d see a reptile show. They’d have to carry straws to be prepared, to push up through the weight if it collapsed, to use for breathing until the rescue party dug them out, in the meantime, however, using them to draw on the frozen daiquiris that she would pack in the thermos. Mal giggled slowly and adjusted the hair cocoon. He stopped and kissed her. Her tongue rooted out his chewing gum.
At noon, she would often run ice cubes across his wrists. She noted that he had no lines on the palms of his hands.
One morning as they were playing boule on the beach, they saw several trucks and cranes traveling up the road. They parked in the ditch not far away. The men swung down from the cabs and walked back toward the town. Mal and the girl tried to ignore them but they were huge and brightly painted. No one ever attended them or moved them any further up the road. They just canted in the sand and shone in the sun, the chrome so clear that cardinals hopped over them all day long, admiring their own scarlet, dashing selves.
Mal went back to playing the pretty game. The sight of the balls as they arched heavily through the air and the sound of them as they struck one another was very pleasant to him. The sun was a sockeye salmon weaving in the mist. The clouds were foaming gin. Sometimes Mal would fall asleep while standing.
The girl left in the morning for limes. The tide was out, a bar exposed. He could still see the moon in the sky. He thought the shark was a rubber tire until he had reached its snout. Someone had carved out the jaws. It was deflated, the stomach covered its side, all black and orange like a bad squash. He sat down to watch it and discovered that he couldn’t think about it any more. He walked down the beach to see what else he could find. When he turned back, he could see dimly that the house had been leveled. The machines were further down the road and all that remained was a stack of boards and insects fleeing across the sand, and the boule balls in a ragged nest.
Mal ran around in a tight little circle like a dog trying to bite himself. He didn’t know if he would see the braid waving from the aerial, whipping like a squirrel’s tail on the right, on the side of her protective jockey which was blown up by her own damp and narrow and nervous lips. He didn’t know what, in that which he saw passing on the road, he should regard as his own.
No one was immune. The wilderness snapped and gilded like a varmint. He could hear it at dusk, whirring and wheeling, hooting in his ear. The oceanic desert. The jungled marsh. Didn’t she know? There were rabid foxes and loose tie rods. Current rattled up through the bidet. Sails luffed. Brain pans bent and burnt.
Mal started to run. Snapping from car aerials were flags and flowers and underwear. Inside the people were smiling and shifting around and drinking from paper cups. And over it all was the smell of rubber and oil and salt in the light and the bright sunshine. The beach was endless and Mal ran and ran.