WORKS

First chapter of my novel, “Tünde and Tamara.”

 

FREEDOM SQUARE

He is a leader of leaders, Gábor. He is a Gábor of Gábors.

He is a nobody suddenly high-flying in a medium-sized horde of flag-wavers.

The results are in, it is early morning. He will make a speech today, they will applaud. He will remind them that they are growing in number. They might cheer and stomp. Whether or not this happens, he will tell his wife and children, this afternoon, over his favorite meal—savoy cabbage stew nuggeted with thick slices of fried bacon—that it did. His progeny will hug him—I should have another couple of these tykes, he will think. His wife will kiss him on the mouth, which she has not done in years.

For decades, she has been kissing him on the cheek as though he were her brother. Or on the forehead as though he were her son. Sometimes, oddly, on the hand, as though he were her priest. What Gábor does not know is that the reason his wife kisses him on the cheek, or on the forehead or hand—sometimes she just blows him a kiss from across the room—is that he has bad breath.

Morning, noon and night, bacteria swim in Gábor’s mouth as though it were a holiday spa resort. They use his tongue for a water slide, they use his teeth for deckchairs.

His wife does not tell him that he has bad breath, not because she is the kind of wife who does not want to hurt her husband’s feelings, she is the kind of wife who does not tell her husband that he has bad breath despite the fact that he has to suffer the indignity of being unexplainably rejected, kept at arm’s length, by all the people he encounters each day in public. Gábor’s wife strategically saves the mouth-kissing for pivotal occasions, for example, as a post-election reward.

The bacteria in Gábor’s mouth are having a good time, but Gábor is not. He is leading a kind of uninformed, calculated existence.

 

On the bright side, late tonight, Mrs. Gábor will wiggle her tongue in Gábor’s mouth, bite his bottom lip, and growl like a bitch in heat. Mrs. Gábor will be eager tonight, she will go south of the border. They will play the game in which it is April 1941, she is Hungary’s Royal Army, and he is the Kingdom of Yugoslavia.

First, she will take the two quivering regions of Bácska and Baranya into her mouth, roll the twin territories around in there. She will commit her muscular brigades, her lingual and tonsillar all. Nip naughtily so it hurts him, suck hard as though on a couple of Kojaks. She will mumble, dribble and growl dirty things.

Then she will attack his whole, long, thick, diagonal Kingdom until it is destroyed, limp, surrendered.

He grins, in memoriam.

 

His teeth are frothy. His mind reverts to thinking about his saliva. His mind habitually thinks about his saliva. It overthinks it, and it overproduces it. It won’t stop thinking about it, overproducing it. There is so much saliva that it bubbles up, erupts between his teeth. He is drooling. He quickly lights a cigarette, his hands shake. Smoking helps him swallow. He hopes nobody notices his superfluity of saliva.

 

It will be good for demographics to have more Gábors; his number and kind are on the wane, of late. He will mention this in his speech, in a moment.

 

He tries to concentrate on his speech instead of on his saliva. He smokes. He hears his name announced by the Vice-Head of Party Publicity.

 

He decides, definitely, that he will resume, tonight, the noble national project of procreating.

The optics will be right, his standing with four healthy Hungarian boys—the measley two he has now do not make enough of an impression. A true patriot has four.

No more than four! That borders on Gypsy depravity.

Gábor is an ophthalmologist by trade, so he knows.

He will talk about Gypsy depravity in his speech, in a moment.

Gábor’s wife will be raring, clacking her teeth submissively like a mare in heat when he enters her from behind, tonight.

 

Gábor’s name is called again, there is the scattered clapping of confused Gábor supporters.

Now that Gábor has won, for his party, one of two new seats in Parliament, he ponders his continued advancement in the party, and beyond.

Gábor is sanguine about the pondering of such a possibility. He is eager to do whatever is required to take the party, and himself, to the next level.

Only he is not eager to take the microphone.

 

He is flushed. His heart races ahead of him, waits for him at some open door in the not-too-distant future when he will have no choice but to go, following his heart, through that door, which will feel like a shock, thrill; his body will be electrified, then he will collapse, on the other side of that door in a new place, where he will be no-longer-a-man, more like a freshly-washed bedsheet dropped on a dewy morning, up from which God will pick him, pale and sopping, shake Gábor out; mortality will evaporate off Gábor and blow away, God will hang Gábor out on an eternal clothesline and that easy-drying-in-the-sun will be Heaven.

 

Gábor’s mind wanders. Gábor’s cigarette burns a dark tone of crimson as he pulls on it, excessively.

 

There are many hundreds assembling here, making history at a site that has already so much history. The square abounds in busts, statues, memorials, and even the ghosts of busts, statues and memorials. Gábor feels inundated by history.

Who was it again that once made a speech here?

A big important speech.

Was it Lajos Batthyány?

Did Batthyány make a big important speech here?

Batthyány was a breeder of horses, the first Prime Minister of Hungary, and a revolutionary in 1848. Where today there is the “Eternal Flame” monument, Batthyány was executed by an Austrian firing squad. They had wanted to hang him, but his neck was in no shape from a suicide attempt with a dull dagger his accommodating wife had snuck into prison.

By another account, it was Batthyány’s deft wife who cut a first slice. But Batthyány saved his loaf—for the crack of dawn!

The prison was a converted stable. The pungency of pressurized seminal plasma endured, and was intoxicating. Batthyány’s final words were, “Allez Zuchthengste, éljen a haza,” that is, Come on, stallions—long live the Homeland!

Which was an important thing to say, Gábor admits. But, maybe, does not meet the criteria of being a whole entire big speech.

Was it then Miklós Horthy?

Did Horthy make a big important speech here?

Horthy was Commander-in-Chief of the Austro-Hungarian Navy, Regent of Hungary, and liberator of ethnically Hungarian lands from foreign rule.

There was the matter of his collaborating with the Nazis, but you don’t kick a patriot in the balls when he’s down, do you?!

Gábor recalls that good old Horthy was from a deep-rooted Calvinist family, spoke German, barely a word of Hungarian, so it’s not likely he made a big important speech here.

What about that atrocious Soviet obelisk?

Gábor glares at the atrocious Soviet obelisk that looms in Freedom Square.

In the dark winter of 1945, it is likely that some contemptible Bolshevik Bronstein-ite made a big important speech here when he inaugurated that atrocious Soviet obelisk, after demolishing the cherished “Monument to Hungarian Grief,” which was composed of the Hungarian flag at half mast and four beautiful statues called “North,” “South,” “East” and “West.”

Gábor can’t remember what the statues looked like. This was before Gábor’s time.

Ahh, the spring of 1921! With its two winds!   Defeat and determination crossing paths!

Gábor has seen photographs of the square as it was then.

Gábor is fairly certain that he has seen photographs of the square as it was then, and though the photographs were grainy—Heavens, those statues were beautiful!

One of the statues—maybe “South,”—was of a crucified Hungarian soldier gripping the coat of arms of counties taken in the Treaty of Trianon; the soldier’s other arm gripped a zaftig Swabian damsel who didn’t mind being gripped—in fact liked it!

Gábor cannot remember what the soldier was doing with his arms while he was being crucified.

The other three statues were interesting too.

50,000 proud attended the statues’ inauguration, and the flag’s at half mast, and probably at least one of the 50,000 proud here made a big important speech wherein he must have expressed the profound sadness of the Hungarian nation. But Her eternal commitment to irredentism.

Gábor chokes up thinking about that big important speech, which he imagines himself giving. He could have done a lot with an occasion like that!

Gábor glares at the Soviet obelisk, which is a slap in the face, which reminds him.

Ronald Reagan!

Was it Ronald Reagan who made a big important speech here?

It was probably Ronald Reagan who made a big important speech here, which is probably why they have his statue in the square.

Why else?

Even so, they should not have an American’s statue here. Though Reagan put the clamps on the communists, things are different today. Today, Hungary is leading the way to freedom, while America kowtows to the Zionists.

Come to think of it, they shouldn’t have General Harry Bandholtz’s statue here either! There it is though—a statue of the American General Harry Bandholtz.

Bandholtz fought off, with a dogwhip no less, those bastard Romanians looting the Hungarian National Museum, but Hungarians don’t need an American’s help figuring out who to dog-whip!

Gábor thinks there should be only Hungarians’ statues here!

Gábor will mention this, in his speech, when he starts his speech.

How to start his speech?

He has words prepared—he wrote them months ago, out of caution not confidence. But now, he is concerned that they’re not the right words.

Gábor inhales his cigarette, which burns like a torch in his throat, whose insides are raw and silent where he stands on the compact outdoor mobile hydraulic stage truck platform—ideal for road shows and election speeches.

In his speech, in a moment, Gábor will call for the removal of the Reagan statue and the Bandholtz statue, and most of all, the Soviet obelisk!

Back home, in his little castle, he will tell his dewy-eyed boys that their father was given a standing ovation. He swallows.

 

There may be a thousand people here. Where there are a lot of people, one must assume, they may add up to a thousand.

Gábor wonders how, in such a crowd, he stands out. He doesn’t.

And this is why he has won. The party, and the electorate, wanted a non-politician. They wanted a nonhero. They wanted a doctor with a steady but compassionate bed-side manner for the country’s chronic condition: life-or-death.

They wanted him, and he wanted to be him. But he is not him.

It is as though he’s put in all of his long forty-two years—becoming a man, ophthalmologist, husband, father, Chairman of the Committee on Long-range Vision—toward the realization of this moment; but this is the very moment that he and the party are writing him off, the moment he disappears. He knows it.

He sees it on the horizon: a lackluster speech; an uninflected tone; unfeeling averted eyes. The black stench of muck on the exultant heels of a hussar captain’s riding boots.

There have been hints.

Recently, meetings are held without Gábor, Gábor’s opinions have not been solicited on matters, and the aspiring young buxom woman who, mornings, brings a basketful of homemade sheep cheese pogácsas to party headquarters doesn’t wink at Gábor any more.

Gábor had grown accustomed to that wink, and those firm fresh round biscuits, for inspiration on his days’ journey, as he campaigned across the country, passing from awkward anonymity to a kind of loath popularity, from innocence to awareness of fate, from incorruptibility to thoughts of revenge. Winning, while he unexplainably lost—watching himself losing.

Gábor’s eyelids droop. The ophthalmologist diagnoses ptosis. He lets a profuse fall of tears. Epiphora. Something is interfering with his ability to see clearly.

Gábor attempts to flick his cigarette butt off the side of the platform, but it hits one of the speakers and the soundman glowers at him. Gábor had envisioned the butt flying and dying midair, at its zenith, like an extinguished firefly, but it had ricocheted and now lies smoldering not far from his right shoe.

Gábor steps up to the microphone and knocks a knee into the stand, which teeters but recovers. He taps the microphone’s black steel mesh grill head, another timekiller move, which irritates this audience, as it is in a hurry.

This is a pragmatic group, but impatient. It mostly comprises young patriots between the ages of 18 and 29. The group is organized and vigorous—coming into its own—like a large pot of goose eggs boiling noisily on a stove.

Gábor sees, well-beyond the Reagan statue, the plum-red cupola of the Parliament Building.

The Parliament Building is still the largest building in the country, the highest in Budapest. In its Central Hall, the Crown of Saint Stephen, the first Christian king of Hungary, languishes in a vitrine on a pedestal, instead of on a royal-head on a pedestal. Things are amiss.

His Holy Crown is visited daily by dozens of tourists, mostly from China, but a good many from small rural Hungarian towns, loyal citizens making the pilgrimage to the grand capital in order to check for themselves that nobody has taken their national treasure.

The loyal citizens gaze and weep, they bemoan the absence of a sacred monarchy. They bask in the mystical shine of the gold and rubies. They gawk while, for their viewing pleasure, His Crown is dusted, for spotlessness and fingerprints, by Royal Guards whose deployment to this key position consists of round-the-clock regimental displays of saber, spit and hanky dexterity. On the 1000th anniversary of the country, the Prime Minister moved the Holy Crown from the National Museum—where it was just another piece of art in the privileged playground of art historians and professional directors—to the Parliament Building, where the Prime Minister can greet His Crown every morning on his way to his office.

Gábor has promised himself, and Mrs. Gábor, that one day Gábor will have, and Mrs. Gábor will have, the run of Parliament: building and institution.

Then, Come surely if not squirtly the day, Gábor and Mrs. Gábor will play the game in which it is 2018, Gábor is the king taking back his kingdom, and Mrs. Gábor is a wide-assed sapphired-up sprechgesanging broodmare!

 

Gábor doesn’t know it, although he suspects it, but his speech, in a moment, will be his last.

There is a rising star in the party: Tünde.

The Tünde of Tündes.

Tünde will be instrumental in taking Gábor down, unless he can help it, which he cannot.

Unless I can.

 

Gábor sees Tünde standing in the first row. She is among the crowd, but she is also its vanguard. Her eyes are graciously fixed on Gábor, but all other eyes, in the crowd, are fixed on her.

Tünde is young and beautiful. She accomplishes these attributes ferociously.

Tünde has just been elected the youngest-ever female member of Parliament.

Tünde is holding her six-month-old daughter, her husband has his place next to her. Her optics are great.

Tünde and Mr. Tünde are wearing matching attila outfits. Hers is a hip-length red coat with the traditional decorative black lace and knots across her chest; his is a longer style, adopted after 1850 by the cavalry, black. She wears a black skirt, he wears black breeches. They both wear black polished leather boots; laced, ankle, jack. The baby is swaddled in black, patterned with red rosebuds. Black is this and the next generation’s fashion choice. It represents the Empire in mourning. It represents the reassuming of the mantle of former solemn nationalistic movements.

Tünde’s petite chin is alternately tilted up to watch Gábor and the other speakers on the platform, and tilted down to nuzzle the infant. Tünde was asked twice by the Party President to stand with the other heads of the party, and Gábor, on the platform. This is as much her celebration as theirs. But she said no, both times. Twice she insisted that she prefers to stand with her family and the voters who, when polled, resoundingly say that they prefer action over speeches. Tünde knows she fares better where she is, her stillness seen as purposeful, her beauty as triumphant. She is Madonna and child, angel and mission, warrior and a newborn national hunger for war. Like Julius Caesar, Tünde is waiting to be asked a third time.

 

Gábor is sweating the hell out of his gray tweed suit. Always more hell where that came from. As he opens to utter his first words—a joke, which he thinks will endear the crowd to him—the Freedom Fountain awakens.

 

The Freedom Fountain erupts at the most inconvenient of times!

Water rises like a tidal wave.

Distracted heads turn away from Gábor to see, shooting into the sky above the square, from marble stones set in the ground, eighteen—for the number of days Hungary’s 1956 revolution lasted—6-meter-high vertical, white, lathery jets. Only those in the last row and farthest from the platform get hit by the spray, but the fountain’s engine and the discharge is loud, and so drown out Gábor’s joke.

Gábor anyway tells his joke.

Gábor presumes that they are not laughing because they hate the joke, hate him. He thinks, Figures. Maybe right.

 

*

 

The water spurts up, it cascades down.

The fountain is on some arbitrary timer whose rationale, God only knows.

The fountain, like a mountain—or like a burning bush on a mountain—commands observation, allocates freedom—fair and square—and keeps opposing sides apart.

On the fountain’s north side, Gábor’s gathering—at heart, Tünde’s gathering—is trusting God for the timing of their victory—His will be done.

On the fountain’s south side, a small and grumpy rabble of conspiracy theorists, Jews, Gypsies, homosexuals, academics, artists, Humanists, Green-liberals and Marxists think—God be damned—something different!

 

There are always about thirty of these protesters, night and day. It is a mystery how they manage it; nobody signs anybody up for anything: instigation, rotation, obligation. If a couple of protesters arrive together, they might leave separately. Or they might arrive individually, and leave alone. But, always, there are no less than thirty on the south side of the square, on this side of the fountain, where there is, also, complementarily, a 30-man legion of police officers.

The police officers stand like listless Grim Reapers. They wear slate-gray, hooded, over-sized ponchoes. Legs apart, toes pointed out at 30 degrees, palms turned inwards, right hands over left hands, all hands cup the vulnerable nether reaches—below the waist and above the knees—of officers’ bodies.

The fountain spits, dark clouds congregate overhead, a Marxist rains insults at the officers.

“Thieves! Oligarchs!” yells the Marxist, waving a bright red file folder, stuffed with newspaper clippings, which splits as a result of the folder’s inflammation and the Marxist’s discomposure, and lets take flight a plague of paper and ink.

A lesbian couple pelt a dozen eggs, they throw like girls, they run out of eggs, they yell, “The Prime Minister fucks with a tiny penis!”

Hit in the face, a chubby officer smirks gummily at the lesbians, winks at them, lets the egg white drip down his second chin, licks the yolk off his lips and cheeks with his engorging tongue.

A septuagenarian Jewish identical twin brother and sister stoop silently opposite the dense line of officers.

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The officers are forming a protective cordon around a construction site obscured by white tarp and scaffolding.

Behind the tarp, there is a seven-meter-high statue of the archangel Gabriel, his wings huge, outspread but flightless, vestigial; his arms long, extended but powerless, cruciform; his eyes shut but in the clear; his fingertips delicately converging with a symbol of Hungary, a globus cruciger, which looks as fragile as a glass Christmas ornament; and above Gabriel, an eagle with a five-meter-wide wingspan, its demeanor threatening; its behavior swooping; its design inspired by Swarovski-Disney collectibles.

The statue is being built to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the occupation of Hungary by Germany. The statue is almost complete: it will be polished, six Doric-style Roman columns will go up around it, a dedication in Latin will be engraved in massive stone above it, a diminutive plaque inscribed with an afterthought will be mistranslated into Hebrew and placed to the side of it.

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The identical twins hold out, on the ends of sagging arms, reports diagnosing them with rare cancers attributed to medical experiments performed on them when they were children in Auschwitz.

Nervous officers can feel on their necks the close sulfuric breaths of the twins.

The officers are unflinching.

Occasionally, the officers are not unflinching and search for empathy in the eyes of their fellow officers but find that those officers are likewise searching, and not offering.

A young woman is curled up in fetal position on the pavement, she rocks and moans, she has been there for days, she is wearing a Russian-Roulette Cyanide Necklace. The product is self-explanatory.

The product explained: the young woman purchased the necklace online, it was made in China, she has been swallowing a candy a day, her tongue looks like chalk, her teeth look like pink stars. Her mouth is an Ethyl maltol timebomb.

The young woman is recording herself with her phone, her friends are streaming her broadcast live on YouTube.

An officer asks the young woman for proof of identity, she does not have proof. She claims to not have an identity in a country that is raping her soul. The officer does not understand what her soul has to do with her identity, he is disgusted by her language, he tells her to get up off the ground, she doesn’t. The officer pulls at her arms. The young woman’s arms are stubbornly attached to the young woman. The officer starts to pull harder, but when his sergeant places a collegial hand on the officer’s shoulder, and shakes his head at the officer, the officer goes back in line.

“Officer Györgyi, let the witch crochet her own noose,” whispers the sergeant.

Officer Györgyi does not understand what crocheting has to do with it, his dear old mother crochets, but he understands following a sergeant’s order.

The young woman bites defiantly down on the candy of the day, the candy blasts supernovalike the flavor of sour cherry. The young woman’s hundreds of friends “thumbs up” the incident.

Three elderly Gypsy widows in calf-length skirts, cardigans, kerchiefs and pearl earrings are sitting on three rusty walkers. Two Gypsies lean far forward but do not fall, they smoke their pipes and chat in soft contralto tones, whereas the third one, who is the only one with a backrest, reposes. All three have rolled up a sleeve to show their number tatooes.

A junior officer perspires in his poncho, he is not sure he loaded his weapon this morning but is embarassed to check.

Five protesters, strangers but attracted to one another as though gravitationally, join hands to make a circle, they sing Israel’s National Anthem, they perform a Hungarian circle dance. They go round and round. They make the officers dizzy.

There is an armored vehicle parked nearby. The Minister of the Interior who controls the National Police Commissioner who tell the Riot Police what to do, has calculated that the armored vehicle will put the protesters, psychologically, in a mood of unease. It does not.

The protesters are in whatever mood they are in, regardless.

Some protesters pace as though in a narrow waiting room in a train station.

Some stand alone.

Some huddle.

Some dance.

Some paint banners that read, “Falsification of History” and “Well-Poisoning of Our Intellect.” They hang the banners off long grey branches ripped from chestnut trees edging the square, they dangle and jab the banner-hung branches provocatively, just out of the officers’ reach.

The officers zone out and visualize hometown delicacies: the potent liquor distilled from fully-ripe apricots; the spicy scent of winter salami in the ripening phase; the tiny ripe pink breasts of a first conquest.

 

There is a steady flow of protesters walking up to a mysteriously designated area on the ground near the defended monument, and placing objects: letters, photos, stones, candles, stars, rattles, dentures, shoes. They are reciting or reading testimonials, weeping, remaining, walking away. A very tall young man, dark in mood and dress, approaches that same area and lightly sets down a thin and yellowed prayer book among the hundreds of other items. The book is no longer bound, its pages are disordered, they flap, they are tossed loose, they flit and land again at some distance. Whether close up or far away, the writing is faint, backward, illegible. Anyway, the very tall young man—he bends as though there is always a low ceiling over his head—has turned around and lithely made his way past the other protesters.

He walks past the fountain so, also, the dispersing crowd of Gábor fans, who are really Tünde fans.

 

*

 

By the way, just now, Tünde is on the platform shaking the Party President’s hand. Somebody must have insisted that she get up there.

 

Mr. Tünde is also on the platform, he is holding the baby. Tünde is smiling, the Party President is smiling and congratulating Tünde. The Party President was voted the most influential man in Hungary by Conservative Men’s Magazine. Mr. Tünde was voted the sexiest man in Hungary by Conservative Women’s Magazine. Mr. Tünde is smiling, the baby is smiling. Gábor is standing alone on the platform at a precipice. He is not smiling, he is smoking.

 

Gábor’s speech went well enough.

The crowd has a juvenile palate, but with a matured taste for mob-think, thinks Gábor. Gábor delivered pabulum with just the right combination of repetition, hyperbole and emphatic aposiopesis.

Gábor contemplates that with which he was faced. He cannot let go of the past, any more than he can casually embark on the future.

The present is impossible too. In the present, he is a minor player, he thinks, who vanishes the instant he appears.

He is wrong. But not entirely.

 

Gábor massages his neck-folds. That which once was rock-solid is deformed and torrential. Gábor recalls the joke.

The joke was supposed to be his opening gambit, it was a good joke.   Some of them laughed.

Most of them didn’t laugh, but that is because today’s young don’t have a sense of humor.

Used to be, you met an acquaintance in the street, even if you didn’t like him much, or at all, one of you told the other the day’s joke, the joke that was going around was usually politically-themed, but that hardly mattered, you stuck it to the socialists and at the same time enjoyed a clever poem with an off-color punch line, it was a little wordplay, it was fair play, it was a stress-reliever, it was common courtesy, you shook hands and laughed.

But today’s young have their hands occupied with their mobiles.

Today’s young don’t laugh at jokes, they didn’t laugh at his joke.

Gábor will regale his sons with the story of how they all laughed. He will tell his sons the joke, and they will fall down, holding their little five and six-year-old bellies filled with cheese dumplings, laughing. The joke was….

Never mind what the joke was. If you are young, you won’t laugh, and if you are old, you’ve heard it before.

All right—if you insist!

 

*

 

The very tall young man—he has grown up to make proud his very short old parents—leaves behind the square and ducks into a side street.

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He is wearing a knapsack out of which he pulls another slim book, The Erotic Illustrated Kafka. He is heading for home. He likes to read while he walks. This is not a time-saving measure. He just enjoys reading more than he enjoys walking, and the reading gets his mind off the walking—though he walks gracefully, especially for such a very tall young man, and his strides make short work of walking.   Two stocky young men see him, reading, walking past.

The two stocky young men are smoking, they amass space and compress it with a vengeance. They wear their hair closely-cropped. They are kids these days. They are head-to-toe in black. They are supporters of Youth Empire Strategy, the political party generally referred to as YES! Their party has just won two new parliamentary seats. They came to celebrate the win, but they were bored by the speeches. They prefer action over speeches. They follow the very tall young man into the side street. They push the pavement like pins affixing a military map. Their steps are short, many and rapid for the very tall young man’s long, few and slow ones.

It is noon, most people are busy eating their midday meal, at home with their families, in the company canteen with their colleagues, or in the cafeteria with their schoolmates. There are only Chinese tourists around, the Chinese tourists are distracted with their cameras, they chain-smoke. In a language like braying, they confer noisily over their city maps. There is a haze of smoke over the city, especially concentrated between close buildings.

Although the very tall young man does not look up from his book, he is able to wind his way through the streets toward home without misstep, and without getting run over by speeding cars and busses.

The two stocky young men follow the very tall young man, they skip along as though they are sugar-high children again, they smoke, they stop to relight, they almost lose sight of the very tall young man, they curse each other, but they step on it and find him again, they snicker like naughty children. They keep half blocks behind.

The two stocky young men consider the point of their pursuit. They don’t know it. Even if they knew it, they lose appetite for it. They fall full blocks behind.

The two stocky young men smoke sluggishly. They, “Fuck it.” They finish cigarettes. They, “Fuck it,” and gain back their appetites twofold! They quicken their pace.

At thirty minutes, the very tall young man halts in front of an apartment building.

The very tall young man—his limbs are curved and elastic like that of a longbow made of yew—reaches around and stuffs his book into his knapsack. He sees one of the stocky men who is broad like an arrow nearing. The very tall young man sees the other stocky young man on the other side of the street, on the sidewalk, standing his ground at some distance. The very tall young man reaches for his keys to the front door of the apartment building. The keys are always at the bottom of the knapsack. At the bottom of the knapsack, his fingertips, like twigs, scratch for the keys.

The stocky young man closest to the tall young man says to the tall young man, “Hey, faggot!” He says it loudly though he is close.

The tall young man says to the stocky young man who said, “Hey, faggot”, “Go to hell.” He does not say it loudly, but he says it well.

The stocky young man who said, “Hey, faggot!” now says, “What? Is that any way to talk to your future bosses?”

On that cue, the other stocky young man, who is on the other side of the street, pitches his half-done cigarette, and charges across to this side of the street. To the extent that he can pull his weight—he is dying of smoking, youth and unemployment—Venit! Vidit! and together with his buddy, Pummelit! the shit out of the very tall young man.

The two stocky young men punch and kick the very tall young man.

They box his ears.

They rest.

They light cigarettes.

They stick the very tall young man with lit cigarettes. They burn off his eyelashes. They work big and small. They are craftsmen at the pummeling, not to mention the burning off eyelashes without harming eyeballs.

They are just beginning.

The two stocky young men spit on the very tall young man, they rip off his knapsack, they empty his knapsack on to the sidewalk, they pick up his book and open it, dumbfounded they stare at its pages, they rip out its pages and stomp on them. There are other books, there are drawings, they stomp on these too. They continue pounding the very tall young man who is so tall that there is a great deal of him to pound from one end to the other. The very tall young man is easily dented, but he is not easily broken. The effort exhausts the stocky young men, and being exhausted pisses them off, so they keep punching the very tall young man to punish him for exhausting them. The very tall young man’s head sinks into a pillow of spit.

 

*

 

Two homos are lying on their deathbeds in the hospital. One of the homos shits himself.

The other homo responds, “Why talk of love right now?”