Sometime in the night he became aware of the sound of an infant left out of doors, a galling coo and caw of a child nearby. Not distressed exactly, the noise dewy and without pronounced dentals or even soft consonants, without the murmur of any attending adults, a child not crying but perhaps in the preliminaries of being nudged by a predator, outside in any case, vulnerable, in the ward of moon and night-blooming vine, and maybe this is where his dream began:
There were soft footfalls of bare feet in a dark kitchen in the pursuit of a rodent, the floor without texture or sound or sensation until the sticky smacking warmth of blood or excreted milk spilled underfoot, a sweaty belly-on-belly noisiness, and in this the pest and pursuer tracked and tangled and eventually became a solid undifferentiated mass, struggling and damp and not without sexual hues, and upon the pest smooth bare patches of skins were discovered among its wet fur and upon the pursuer a predatory ambition perhaps more lenient.
He awoke to the odor of substandard living and he just lay there smelling in the caul of a thought but mostly in the margins of uncertainty, hesitance, phlegm. His eye falling upon nothing it had not already immortalized in dread, an erection but only to choke back a flood of pink urine, a toe of one foot cool. He wrote this down:
When she died there was no need to view the body, she’d been out of the apartment for five days and word came back from Jack Julius a strip-pit trombonist that she’d been dead for four, burned on a mattress in a melon patch on Bogalusa, the Volunteers saying no kerosene but maybe [joking] splo whiskey and too much Max Factor, a slender cheroot–this being the patois for a white man’s ambition.
He rarely flushed the upstairs toilet. The smell cast an odor of authenticity, an authoritative throb in the throat of the day’s heat. Someone beat on the door, the door to the furnished rooms below, now vacant. Hey motherfucker! He shifted his weight on the toilet. The joists creaked, the wax ring of the toilet wept a little.
Mamma Chakoa smelled and just lay there. Smelling. Then a magenta flame leapt to her window and she jumped out of bed and in her panic her Civil Defense uniform and her Daughters of the Sphinx fez. By then the smoke was greasily boiling so she cut a wide triangulating path to the fire like a schooner on a moonless bay: back door the post shop Treat’s Bog and came with dawn light out of the wind breathing through the felt of her fez. Then she saw the source and ran back to close the widows of her house and the ministry. She forgot to shutter the Post Shop, they’re still trying to boil the smell out of those greens, ruined Alice’s soup bone.
The door rumbled. It’s your mother, motherfucker. [Laughing] All angles must earn the weight of their marble.
I told Croe all this didn’t seek him out or anything, never much liked him. Or her either, even French Emma said she was still fired when we heard she was dead. I was gigging at the Caledonia then near the Derwent Hotel where they stayed and he was in the street pale and sour like after five days he was finally coming down to ask about her. Maybe he’d already heard, I don’t know, still don’t know what they were to each other, old and young cooped up together like that. Anyway nothing seemed to get a rise out of him, not even the part about the soup bone. [Laughs]. The boy was dense. Asked me [laughing] asked me if I wanted pie. Seems her last domestic duty was to bake this boy a loganberry pie.
August laughs: Bet you had some of that pie.
Shit. I didn’t have none of that pie.