ARK > Preview ARK
1. Once up on the vine, a tiny purple dream rolls awhile in sunlight and then swells like an infection. This is truly the most drooly of dreams, the sweet slabbery kind filled with hoards and herds of real drooly swallows striding right off the sea and onto hot twinkling sand. Here’s a rolling parade of dangling asthenic frames with slopes and humps and bangles and bellychains that could be silver promises of umbilical cords to come, come striding right along, while all the lazy blue laps their feet. Wearing black seven league boots that crawl up their calves and stop just below the knee, they leave shallow depressions in the sand. I follow closely, caught up in the slipstream of a billion or so of these real drooly swallows with pigwiggly tails and faces branded browned by the sun. Before I know it, my queegees are in play. My hand slips through the crowd, braiding our fingers, but her body remains obscured by the shuffle as we push forward. I’m led toward what looks like an unstruck matchstick and turns out to be a lighthouse. A door’s peeled back and we take up the stairs. I can feel their nipples brushing against my back as we lean up the huge hollow tube. More and more keep pouring in, but room never runs out—the walls buckle, the floorboards multiply and in dash a few more, and then creep a few more drizzling droolies dripping brine puddles on the floor off legs as long as California. Through a pane of greasy glass I see the sea laying perfectly still like an endless sheetcake a thousand feet below. A tadpole of mint circles the air like a good lie and my tongue liquefies and begins to fall in steady ticktocking drops, so we’re all just dripping small clots of salt on the floor. I’m inside a circle and my hand is free and all the swallows set up these huge player piano smiles and take four steps backwards while their hands tick down extra slow before hoisting up a million flamingo legs. Lower and lower the black seven leaguers slide, unfull and silly, like bananas taken from their yellow slings. The whole room even smells like fruit now, like something sweet that could turn sour. These swallows still at it, unsheathing leather, a heel almost now, just about to take out those sweet feet, those fat tongues you birdies walk around all day on. All the feet in the world, the entire soft armada rushes toward me. When I can no longer stand, I kneel and wait completely ensorcelled. My shuck slaps the floor and they come closer. Another step and they could stomp me like Altamont. Three more. Two more. One more… But the alarm cop’s fuzzy fingers take me truant by the ear toward morning, belly laughing ing ing ring ring ring ringing and rocking and twitching inside my head like a mouse stuck on a glue trap.
2. A warm, wet sprig creeps down my thigh and puddles in between my toes. Mornings (and, of course, the occasional evening) often reverse my best attempts at remaining housebroken.
The mulligrubing glub glub rotty potty mouth gorms it all down glub glub gurgle splurgle, throwing me back to the seadream, still warm and swishing gooey in the big grey sprawl above. The abrupt tidal flow calls me back to shore, just as a fresh, thrummy hangover takes its perch.
Here’s Yours Drooling: hauling on pants, sniffing for keys, lapping up water, and chasing it all away with aspirin and a chuckle of Dr. McGillicuddy’s. Soon, under my skin, a cool vineyard of stars will open up, blooming tactically, coruscating practically, creeping quickly through molten tubing and chutes and slides and the remainder of that and this in this diamond mine of mine, and I’ll be fine in no time at all.
I peel back the door on a huge prickly spin of white light that gouges into my lentils, still fat and crumbling from sleep. It’s early, but the street is already hot and slithering upwards like Zener cards toward a breadmold sky spanning in every direction, twisitng Candyland up tight in a nice blue wrapper.
You might even see fireflies at night if the lawns weren’t all treated.
A mere twenty minutes late for work, I slip through the slicing doors of the minimart. I’m made only out of beelines today, in pursuit of the exquisite prospects of fresh coffee and lottery.
3. Big Robert Araratzenhamburger fits an entire jelly doughnut past a listing chorus of teeth, and slides it completely inside his shuck without compressing its unnaturally perfect circularity.
–Not right now. His rucktruck reads SQUEAK E. CLEAN WINDOW SERVICES and rusts more and more with each step forward, but the mule runs, which is better than most things. I yak the ladder off the roof and pin that steel dog of war against a slab of gingyhouse, nice and easy. I take up the big old A on the lawn quick like smoke through the windpipe of a chimney. Oh, My Droolies, my squeegee is at the ready, curled between my queegees. Thews locking and unlocking, starched and ossified by a million trips up and down a day, pucker and wax like sucklips made out of bone.
A misting bottle of blue curaçao* bucks at my hip under a pack of thumps. I stomp an alacritous thwamp, shelling the first dusty windowpane of the day and go after the next, cubit after cubit, row after row, shipshaping these pale sails.
Unloading old blue with devastating socko, I felt a sudden spazzy roll-up of the gums, as if some real bad news just broke over me like a beer bottle, and a batch of collywobbles begins to creep around the viscoelastic walls of my guts. So there, twenty feet plus in the air, out comes the teeth of this furious hangover, descending vampiric, and taking me over fast in one crunchy, bloodflecking bite. Lanes of voltaic sweat wiggle down my back while the insides of my shuck turn into checkerboards. Yours Drooling, I’m afraid, is in very bad need of a puke.
Robert’s mouth is still blinking out chomps as another doughnut slips inside his commodious ivory garden, where it is promptly mutilated. A dozen licks clean and he tosses me up a cloth diaper and I’m pressing on it and lifting each dribble off the glass.
That’s the trick to these old doomed windows: DIAPERS. They’re all just babies that need a good wipe. I lift up the cloth and my my my, there’s the whole frame glimmering full of Yours Drooling, perhaps not burning with an obdurate masculinity—the type that so many of the skeezy droolies flock to—or the arch impudence typical of the modern specimen, but were I to evaluate the portrait in its entirety, this wan, dyspeptic, gas-eructing volcano, I’d have to say, it was completely awesome, nonetheless.
Tumbling in, copper blasts of sunlight sweep away my image from the frame, leaving just an opaque glaze of icing on this old slab of gingerbread. Two rungs down and a dogleg over, I take on the next set of dirty birdies, moving like a knight on a chessboard. Sour sweat runs down my brow and slowly falls twenty feet onto the lawn below. I fence with another set and then another. I’m a mime, greasy white faced in the sun, at odds with this old gingerboard, while below all the sophister sohipsters stroll and roll behind bulging sunglasses. I mimic Robert’s mouth, which moves up and down, up and down.
Now I pin up the ladder on the back slice of gingerbread, runny with sugarcane framework and filigree, and make a dash for the top all while dodging the pecks and snipes of the hangover bird is still perched on my shoulders. And just past the mullions and the gummy glass, I peer in on a bedchamber with lit candles, splayed about ornaments, and purple velvet arrogance. So exquisitely sardanapalian was this chamber, glowing before me twenty feet in the air, hell, it may as well’ve been the God Christ Almighty’s assignation room. A chaise walnut sofa exchanges glances with me from across the room as though it were, itself, in repose. Companion wingback chairs, capable of sinking humans like ships in their furrowed depths face off from the cattycorners. Hand-carved fillet molding dashes along the room and I follow the line around like a lit fuse.
Upon closer inspection though, there was something particular about all of this furniture that I couldn’t entirely place, so my grey mutter just kept mumbling on and on, on the wipe. Then after a few swipes my lentils sunk to the floor, as they do, and there it all was, sweet and soft as a peck on the cheek. All the chairs and the couches and the beds, all the witnitty fur in general had similar feet. And not just your garden snake variety tapjobs, No My Pets, but each leg grew plumper and heartier. The chiseled details became more significant, and I saw each foot was that of a lion or tiger or some snarling, heartcarved mouser with sharpened brads leaking over the edges of each paw.
Another point or two of interest in this particular bedchamber was a scattered pair of high heels, and, of course, the possibilities of the passenger that fits inside. You see, for Yours Drooling, Your Fine Fellow, a pair of unoccupied heels is really a pair of open mouths spread open across the floor, awaiting the arrival of a limber tongue. And I must confess, my Dear Droolies, the sight of that open curve leaking down from the heel to the toe, like the cat, like the stretching of the cat, well it’s almost enough to put me in the ground.
The collision of a soaring empty coffee cup against my temple brought me back in the game.
–Gon fa mo cowfee, wa wa?
But he’d already sparked the engine and budged into streetaffy rubbing over each other in the glittering heat. The sun kept laying it down thick, outwitting the clouds and whiting out the whole big show. In the glare, you couldn’t see a thing.
I wheeled off sweaty specters clinging on my brow and tried to peer back in on the little set behind the glass. The only thing I could make out was a small slice at the bottom of the window frame—the lion’s feet and the heels. Just a pair there in the loose fling of a dancestep, in the slippery throes of an imaginary watusi. Then, crossing the bellchest big blue panoramo, these big cottontail nimbus cut in and squeezed out the glare. And there stood Yours Drooling, A Real Fine Fellow, and pressed against the pane of glass was a pair of rosy mammalias and a smile from the lady of the house. A nice big smile.
If you could unwrap a glass of wine and lay it out flat, that’s what it would look like, that’s what her nipples looked like against the glass just before noon.
I slowly retreated down from my perch, down the ladder and ran at the remainder of ground-level birdies fast, one, two with almighty blue, and followed with three level squeegee blows. I made another jab with the backpocket rag and repaid a visit to the upper corners, putting the birds away with a diaper. With those storms stormed, only one dirty birdy remained in the house just a cubit above the resting ladder. Moments later, Robert returned with a single coffee cup and a dozen more doughnuts.
My answer was the same as before, as it has always been.
Robert got a foot out of the truck and surveyed the house. He didn’t comment on all the glass I’d cleaned, so it followed he wouldn’t comment on the one square I hadn’t.
We cut out a little after noon.
The aspirin and the nudity, the two best known unguents for fathead hangover, were beginning to blow down any trace of sickness. Thinking back to our bowling pin candle in the window, winding out waves over her shoulders; she was a junebug of a mature specimen, in my humble o—fat lips and a loitering gaze that could open hearts and wallets without effort, in equal measure. The rest of her could probably still crack open a vault or two, though I never had a clean line on anything below the knee, and that’s where it really counts, My Droolies.
Birds weren’t chirping outside, though I could tell they wanted to, so I whistled a sweet tangle into the air. I slapped some more spry cattle down, hard, hard on the asphalt, and shook it loose out of a gallop to a standstill before another gingerloaf drizzled, just mad with sugar and sunlight. This particular loaf was made entirely out of peppermint sticks, clamshell arches, gumdrops, outfacing bays, graham crackers, Necco, a slate mansford roof, dot candy, ivory stucco, conical towers, and dried mortar frosting.
Here’s Yours Drooling, peeling open the gate lightly scabbed with rust, which will remind fall of how it should all go when it’s time. The sun was paying out in buttery pieces of eight all over my back and neck, drawing milky ripples over every last pane of glass.
In somewhere parked cars, puppies, children and forlorn passengers sit silently imploding, counting pink elephants, sweating fish hooks through their pores, one by one, apprehending the derangement a dogday carries on its back. All the while, I’ve got a gaggle of goosebumps pricking up and down my arms.
Take up the stairs, peel back the first door underneath an awning of creamy yellow paint, where the ceiling yawns to two stories.
Above the front door a large drum of hornets mumbles a slow, rotten din.
The key fits and the bolt loosens.
Inside it’s cool, on the rocks. The house is so still, I go a little deaf.
Each lace undone, I arrange my shoes by the lip of the door.
I have now observed Cardinal Rule One: which foresees the successful removal and ordered arrangement of any footware that passes through the door.
My tongue sticks like a postage stamp as I make the arrival call.
–Thelma, sweet Thema... I’m here. It’s me.
Inside the foyer, moody dew gauzy fields, cafes and ponds hang up, down and over, upward and rightward in paintings along the walls. In the top corner of the staircase a glowering droolie moles through a quince with her blouse halfway unbuttoned with smoldering charity for all us drooly slobberers out here to have a ripe, bellmilk suck. Having freed itself from summer’s yoke, autumn crumbles behind her in batty dashes of red and waxy yellow rots.
Autumn is really summer, you know, only conscious it’s being chased.
–You’re LATE! Fetch me the axe this very instant, so that I might cut one of your balls loose and feed it to the ducks in the park!
They're closing curtains—you could hear her from across the street. Pushing deeper into the foyer, there’s a tiny carpet that may as well be the surface of the sun, becoz I mustn’t ever set foot upon it. Cardinal Rule Two: which prohibits foot traffic on certain rugs and carpeting, ostensibly for textile posterity and other applications heirloom. I take three inches of exposed wood floor across the hallway, counting three different sets of footprints floating over the carpet. And this wasn’t cake for Yours Drooling, as one just don’t know how hung one really is, until one's gotta do something clever with one's feet.
–The dull axe. Hanging in the shed! Bring it at once!
I crept in on the parlor softly, turning for some screwy reason to look back on the painting on the wall: her somber pond and fugitive wood slipping away in the autumn wind breezing between the frame up on the wall. It’s right here that I step on three snoozing catzzz bathing in a pool of sun falling in through the front bay window, and they scatter out of play, leaving just the back of Thelma’s head floating along the horizon of the davenport like a dopy buoy.
–For Chrisssakes! Fetch! Fetch! Fetch!
She plucks the remote and seamlessly the teevee switches from one plush, pillowy setting to another without winking—everybody looking like everybody, donating big meaty organs, going under the blade, everybody crying, licking each other’s bones clean. High on the back wall, a cuckooclock sticks out a little chirping bird while the catzzz watch motionless, waiting to secrete a batch of falcated blades secreted away. The clock gobbles up its avian tongue like a worm, as the worms pant in soil below—below my feet, I’m waiting on the cats and all the rest.
Inside the universe it’s twelve o’clock.
Inside an endless, black, imperishable universe of duplicating utterances, over and over, inside, the u n i - v e r s e is S H I T, and plenty of it; inside Thelma’s packed earwax-yellow plastic Port-O-Tortoise is in need of immediate attention. Thirteen or so paces at arm’s length and then down down down I cast those fetid dogs of war back to hell, and that being that, once again, plunk my killhand on the flush
…and begin to take a shine to Yours Drooling, standing in the mirror before a still glimmering wet bathroom that had to be handandkneed into sparkles last week, and still in the twilight of its cleanliness.
–I will try another method, now. My Dear, will you fetch me my lunch? Or are you so incapable, that you lack the drive needed to assemble a simple sandwich?
This new method caught me off guard and caused me to drop the mostly emptied chamber pot on the floor. My knees bent, my lentils shrunk from wide bulbs and pressed into a hard horizon. Then my tongue shot out and draped limply back and forth as one of the more calculating dogs of war slopped to the floor. I dropped the chamber pot and my face went low. A sudden, though not entirely unexpected, rainbow passed through me and covered the mirror-like floor.
The world is round and sometimes you don’t realize you’re standing on it upside down.
Tilting the bottle down from its juggy sit on the shelf, I dialed the cap and the knob on the range at the same time, then take up a seat at the kitchen table as a hump of copper roosts over the heat nest and the old range spins slowly to life—the first fiery sip interrupts my lips—and I, soul to take, may beat the kettle to a boil at this rate of dull incalescence. It’s Irlush Whuuuuuuuuuuskey** and no other, and there’s no use arguing about it with me.
I can’t pass up the postcard martinluthere’d on the icebox. See, Thelma’s husband is a magician. He can make himself disappear for weeks at a time and then reappear one day upstairs in his oak-soaked study behind a well-trimmed mustache and the thin veil of the morning paper. These squares of cardboard hanging with bent corners and wavy postmarks on the icebox are his deck, and he’s been performing the same card trick for years. And if you asked why she posts these, we’ll you just wouldn’t ask.
My entire body is throbbing to rout your filthy quarters and bathe you in my slow, glamorous love. I’m on myself nightly over here just to knock it down. I try sleeping, but I’m pushed up on a stilt. Don’t even think of washing this weekend, you nasty rat. I’ll be Napoleon’s hand, half-plunged, half-hanging out of your grimy love. Doug claims we’ll be stateside inside of a week, assuming the dotted line is awash with crossed “t’s” and dotted “i’s”. And please stay off your feet! Give my warmest regards to the girls.
Yours forever and ever,
P.S. Did you receive the book I sent you?
–My lunch! I am depleting at an astounding rate into nothing!
I replace the potion on the shelf quickly—some of which still hot and nagging on my lips. Peeling back the big icebox door, the only thing that turns up is the curious discomfort I feel when I see big empty boxes glaring back at me— [including sarcophagus] —but there’s no way around it. Every last morsel had gone under tooth.
So, it’s neptuna from the can, then two unpoached celery stalks chopped, a quick butterknife blanching of mayo, dealt out in silver dollar dollops over toasted, crustless pumpernickel. I’m fishing out the last dill spear and carving the deal into deltas, lowering a spent tuna can and humming a few bars from Pictures at an Exhibition—“The Hut on Fowl’s Legs” to be exact.
Aroused, around, a piscatory expedition begins with a flicker of small movements. Three kattycornered catzzz nose in over the floor, light as shadows. As I break from the kitchen, fuzzy coils of catzzz move around my feet—this, a sea unfinished—and I unwrap myself from the grasp of waves edging the shore.
I head towards the lobstergutgreenglow on the teevee crunching pixilated grains and smears across the screen. The tuna can in the next room is batted around inside a circle of six paws, everything by now, under tongue and licked clean.
–My God, I could sooner prepare it myself without arms!
She tries to develop her displeasure into a larger, sharper excoriation that surely involves removing the remainder of my reproductive anatomy, or even just the sly merganser himself, though I wouldn’t want to provide Thelma with any ideas. I creep in and slide lunch under her nose before she can offer another complaint.
Without shedding a glance, Thelma’s queegees have plunged past my waist and my testickles coldly squirm inside her palm.
–Let me see your fingernails!
I present them to her immediately, swinging my arms around so fast that I knock over her crutches leaning against the couch. It can never be overstated, My Droolies, that a certain undeniable virginity exists with pain arriving at the testickles; every time feels like the first time. Thelma inspects my nails and I have no doubt failed, have trampled carelessly over Cardinal Rule Three: Unclean or unkempt hands are not merely unacceptable, but an act of degenerate profanity in this house.
There’s a pile of lottery shavings embedded underneath my fingernails.
And it’s just now that the crutches land.
And it’s just now that Thelma’s shuck opens and a long drizzle of spit slips into my palm.
–Wash your hands.
–Do not come into this house with filth under your nails.
–Come closer. Closer. What is that on your breath?
Her handshake pulls me close enough to count the hairs that withstood her most recent depilatory application, and she just might produce blood from a pair of stones.
And it’s just now that her lunch splatters across the floor for the second time today.
–Clean it up. Make it again.
And it’s just now, carrying her spilt lunch in one palm and her orders spit into the other, that three wicked stairmasters descend the stairs.
A one, two, three…
Come, come now, the incontinent rush of barefootsteps bellyflopping down the stairs, the whole crumpling stack slapping down plump and round watermelon whole notes, air and slender pedestal off and unconnected to the calves and bloomshafts so slim and slight they’d disappear if turned sideways; this is about ball and sockets being twisted; this is about mortise and tenon stuttering behind the tawniest garden of wallpaper’d flowers; this is about a great dish of feet set out over and over again, then down a step, then down a step. Smell it in the air as they pass, cherryswell and maple surple scrabbled off the pins, some cinnamon pin over pin and bangs the landing in topples of sinuation and ligaments, the three racing now, tilting with three quick twists taken on the oaky fachokey banister just past Yours Drooling, those three, quite fit indeed, barefoot and bareback and headed for the backyard.
As they go, a little burst of air passes from their lips to the creaky greekey interstices on the edge of my earhole, and each puff says the same thing there in my ear, each dark cloak of skin freshly minted from a bullhorn sun spinning big glowing circles past me, they say:
only they didn’t say SHUCK me, these swallows, hot as the devil’s sunburn, say:
Stretched across the hallway, leading to the backyard there’s a trail of terrycloth stripped from three tabescent waists. Those three, lying belly up now, are pulling hard on the sun like a triple thick milkshake, the happy applicants of cocoanut basking oil. Three wicked stairmasters is what you’d see slurping Scottish Cobblers*** —for chirissakes, the Oban—down fifteen brick steps set into the ground and over the gravy plot backyards racked together in the glaze of summer sun. Those three sunning there with barely a single stitch between(‘ceptin’ the cotton balls that clove their toes, if you count that sort of thing)them.
I must confess, My Droolies, ordinarily, a flight of swallows all on one handy clot, all throwing sotto voco for Yours Drooling to pair off for a while, would surely make my day.
I dialed up another tug of lionfuzz from the bottl’and paddled out what’s left of what’s left of the pumpernickel and dialed open another can or two of neptuna, fenced with an obese butterknife for a while and then thrummed a trillion tines of grass crossing the lawn, stopping just at the foot of a row of glistering pennyflesh.
–Well if it isn’t Mother’s Little Helper.
Goes the first.
–Our favorite little lunchcart.
Goes the second.
–It took you long enough, for shuck’s sake.
Goes Madeline, and she had a point, too, becoz I wasn’t sure who wanted what, mustard and mayo, relish and so on and soon, though I got it together in the end and, of course, it wasn’t shucks that she said either, it was F YOU SEE K.
Lunch is served with a dill pickle and a garlic smile.
–Be a deary and give our bedrooms a once over.
Goes the first.
Gigglegiggle ha ha ha goes the second.
Same with the third, but Madeline’s head swings low like a noose. The backyard is flooded with laughter as I peel back the screen door and make for the stairs.
Thelma quickly changes the channel as I pass. There’s a close-up of a wrinkled man with epicanthic folds filling the entire frame and it looks like he’s wearing the teevee like a diver’s helmet. I’m just about to horn in on the pale ivory urhino hard for a quick poach before tackling the coagulating chambers of sordidness that await, thick as egg yokes, just a flight up, when—
–Find your way upstairs and straighten up the girls’ room. It sounded like they were making an awful mess last night.
And just now, out comes a crutch to point my way. Yours Drooling, soon finds himself on the second landing.
Observe this, My Droolie Few, that Thelma’s whole thing is that she used to have the Babe Big Blue Ox of Paul Bunion clawing round her feet, until last month when she climbed under a blanket of anesthesia and laid real still for the doctor. Before that it was something, and before that something, and before that it was a hundred other incisions and revisions and before that was more dramatic reductive and reconstructive somatics, so many that her belly tightened up like porcelain, and before that who really knows, becoz off and on she’s been on and off her feet since I’ve been old enough to piss my own pants, which was coincidently about to happen.
I peel open the door on each bedchamber and there’s a shirt or two to fold and a shoe or two to store, but really nothing more, except that in each bed lies a different man, sleeping more soundly than the next. In each bed, in each chamber, a snoring crash of men each sleeping next to a bunch of different brands of dripping tubers, French horns, spit bassoons and tubas, all the slung-out prophylactics you could want, dribbling soft, sticking to various arms and legs like clear dead tongues. Even after Yours Drooling, Your Humble Bumble Boy, Master of All Things Dirigible, drives the electric sweep into nearly every object in the room, the chamber remains as still as I found it.
There’s a little squawk down on the lawn for more drinks, but I have a more pressing need to cast those dogs of war, twitchy with light switches back to hell and wash my hands under a long tube of warm water. All over the floor there’s more proflax and for some reason there’s even one stretched over a bottle of DOVKA**** though, the bottle was empty, so I didn’t get clever.
Downstairs Thelma’s left hand flickers over the catzzz, while her right orchestrates operations with her crutch, pointing at the back door, and if you hadn’t guessed by now, I’m dashing—
Goes the first.
Goes the second.
–More drinks, Ashtray!
Goes the Madeline, undoing the string on her swimsuit and taking out her tindery browned discs for everything and everyone under God and heaven to have a little look.
By Jesse Miller