Excerpt from Suns Bearing.
After missing the hour-train Hester faints on the platform, comes to at the foot of stairs, clambers up, passes out on a landing, wakes up on an escalator, sees stars at the top, and blacks out collapsed over and turning a stile. The rest of the way—tussled by the occasional panicked pedestrian, tripping in the gutter, crawling in and out of sewers, stripping for sewer workers, running and raving half-naked as though singing in the rain, just singing in the rain—she won’t remember. There’s not a cloud in the sky.
Hester makes it home alive. Nobody else who can help it is out at two in the afternoon. The sun’s bearing down, birthing more suns.
Hester has trouble unlocking the door, the door has trouble understanding her stabs, sweat in her palms glaze her shining key in the region of her patient lock, minutes glide one to another as do the smallest many parts in music, dance, speech, flight, and rivers. Hester’s heart beats frantically, she tries the same key three times, it works the first and third time, the first time it works Hester’s brain doesn’t process it so she relocks the door, the first time it doesn’t work she lies down for a nap on the welcome mat, the door stands by. The door is on her side.
When she wakes up her face is pushed by the weight of its own exhaustion into the nylon pile, she blinks abstractedly at one of her neighbors’ rats that’s biting the cheek that isn’t pushed into the rough nylon, Hester’s bare ass is swinging in the air, just swinging in the air. The rat is sucking the serum out of one of the blisters on Hester’s exposed cheek, and to try and get away from the rat that cheek is pushing the other cheek harder into the rough nylon pile. Hester becomes painfully aware that there are blisters on both her cheeks, the blisters on the cheek that is pushed into the welcome mat are being punctured by short stiff hairs of welcome, it feels like the unwelcome kiss of a bearded man. Hester’s ass-cheeks are one-two raised in the air, and taking in the freedom afforded by delirium and the empty street. The air can be heard sloppily lapping the moisture wherever it finds it, the way a drunken man at last call licks a wet whatever he can find: the last lip of an empty glass or the oblivious lips of the woman slumped on the stool next to his. The sun’s in my heart and I’m ready for love.
The sun briefly moves behind a cloud, it is like an actress changing behind a screen, undressing, waving her lustrous arms and legs, pretending to disappear, divulging a toe or a hip, and then presently emerging in a costume even more radiant than the previous one.
Hester wakes up inside her apartment naked on her bed. Her tiara is on the cat on the pillow next to her head and her sash is draped over the cat at her feet. Her body is raw, sizzling, facing up, turned inside-out and draped in cats.
Unable to move, Hester stares at the ceiling fan. The blades are still, which is bad because it is hot, the cats stir, which is excruciating because Hester is burning. She thinks she feels flames, the tongues of cats, is the apartment on fire? Oh Hester, no—the apartment is fine. The apartment is composed. The apartment is yours. A cat purrs in Hester’s ear. Another cat sneezes in Hester’s eye. A third cat licks Hester’s big toe. Hester flinches as many times. How are there so many cats, Hester?
There are countless cats moving around the apartment. Cats get in from the fire escape through the kitchen window that shuts but inches from conviction. The landlord says the window shuts, anybody looking at the window would conclude the window shuts, Hester has conceded that the window when observed will appear shut—and yet the cats get in through or under, or mysteriously, by way of the kitchen window. Gaunt young cats, like ghosts, enter Hester’s apartment and stay. It is incomprehensible why they stay. Hester does not encourage them to stay. The cats in Hester’s apartment used to catch and eat the rats and roaches in Hester’s apartment but those rats and roaches are dead meat, or they have picked up and moved to the neighbors’. Hester’s cats are hungry but they stay and breed though there’s no food for them and no explanation for how they survive. The landlord says Hester should be glad there’s no rats and roaches in her apartment. The neighbors complain that Hester has sent her rats and roaches to the neighbors. It isn’t natural, they say. What will be the size of the cat population in Hester’s apartment in a year—or in ten years? In Hester’s apartment there is an apparent randomness and more and more bifurcation points of breeds and families of cats unexplainably arriving and breeding, surviving, and not leaving: it’s chaos, say scientists, but nature eventually corrects for chaos, even if that means adding back into the equation some roaches and rats.
“Fuck! What’s that doing there? Get out of my way! You’re dead, do you hear me! Hess, you home?”
Hester hears a cat shrieking, a toilet seat lifted up hard, an unsteady interminable leak, a toilet flushing. She waits for the sound of the toilet lid to be put down, she wouldn’t even mind if it were slammed down, but it never is, it is always left up, such is the strength of a man’s conviction.
“Hey Hester? It’s your man, Pat! Pat to the rescue! I brought groceries! And booze, your favorite, Kings County! You in bed still? It’s four in the afternoon! It’s hot in here. Why isn’t the Cool on? What a lazy woman. That’s better. Cool on high. Come on, Hess! Get your fat ass out here! I’m making quick stew! Two hundred Red-eyed Blue-bottoms—still squirming. That bastard butcher probably skimped but it’s two hundred more or less. I need a pot and a blender. Where do you keep things in this dump? Get out of here, you swarmy parasites! Not you swarmy parasites, you stay in the bag—haha. I’m going to eat you—haha. Don’t touch me! Get off my leg! Cool isn’t working. I don’t think the Cool is working. Alright, that’s it! You’re dead! Every one of you is dead! Hester, get out here and watch me kill some cats! Hester!”
Hester hears shrieks and shots. Long pauses between shots because Pat’s gun is old and jams, as does Pat.
“Bang! You’re dead!”
Hester hears Pat dragging a couple of cats by their tails out into the hallway. The cats even dead resist leaving Hester’s house. The cats are asking for it, says Pat, when they jump on the counter and try and tear into Pat’s plastic bag of squirming caterpillars. Pat throws out the cats, slams the door and starts opening and slamming kitchen cupboards. Why can’t Pat slam the toilet seat down like that? The neighbors complain that Hester leaves dead and half-dead cats on the sidewalk.
“Nosey cunt next door is going to get it right between her stupid eyes! Hess, are you listening? Well, if you’ve already started in on the festivities, why shouldn’t I? Let’s pretend I waited—ha. You just rest, baby. I’ll make the quick stew myself. Now where’s that blender? Stupid woman.”
The cats are used to Pat and they’re too hungry to run from him. Most of them are kittens and grew up around Pat’s shouting and stomping. He’s Daddy.
Excerpt from Tünde and Tamara.
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.
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 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.