There Is No Year


The father lay on the bed.  He lay beside the sleeping mother.  Into his mouth he’d stuffed ten cigarettes.  He gripped their gather like a bat.  He inhaled through his mouth and out his nostrils.  Filled with smoke, he fainted briefly–a second smoke inside him–and woke up.  The house’s power had gone out.  There was no light in or outside.  The moon had moved behind something or another, or someone had blocked it, or it was no longer even there.  The father’s pupils began expanding.

In the bed the wife sat up.  She asked what happened to the light.  The father asked what did she care, she was sleeping.  The mother said the light had gone off inside her sleeping also.  She said she’d been talking to some one in there and they were looking at one another and happy and things were good and then the light went off and she could not find this person no matter how loud she called into the dark.  The father said, How nice.

Through the air vent to the downstairs they could hear the son’s voice, shouting, though neither said anything about it.  The father inhaled his cigarettes and blew more into the cloud over the bed.  The father didn’t say anything further about the mother’s sleeping or the light or what else they should do.  The mother breathed the smoke without complaining.  She didn’t ask when he’d start smoking.  She moved to get up out of bed and the light in the house came on and she was naked. 

The father had not seen the mother’s body in a decade.  He found her appealing still, despite her marks.  The mother had been through long cycles of weight loss and gain.  Some months the mother would eat as if there were some one else inside her.  Some months she couldn’t hold a glass of water.  The mother’s breasts were huge and white.  The father felt his body stirring.  The father raised his pelvis off the bed.

The son wasn’t yelling anymore.  The mother said something about the room seeming much smaller.  The mother got back in the bed and covered up.  She turned her back toward the father.  Her back was ridged and knobby and had pockmarks all around it which when connected made a number.  The father did not try to touch–he knew better–but he still kept his body flexed.  He kept himself suspended as much as possible off the mattress and soon his muscles stretched with ache.  It was a game.  The sweat sluiced off his back onto the bed sheets.  He was grunting.  The smoke encombed his head.  He could still breathe without coughing. 

The lights went off again.  The mother sat up.  The lights went on and off and on in quick succession.  Outside, they heard the sound of metal against metal.  The mother went to the window to look down.  She stayed at the window for some time, her breath all foggy.  She didn’t say anything about what was there.  The father noticed now she had a scratch mark down the center of her chest. 

In the hallway, the father heard the son talking in a strong, high voice.  Then the son was laughing.  He had a very peculiar laugh.  The mother turned away from the window and went to stand facing the wall.

On the other side of the wall, though the mother could not seen him, the son came into the adjacent room and stood.  The mother and the son became parallel to one another, a wall between them.  The mother moved her legs a certain way.  The son moved his legs in mirror, spreading.  There they held an endless posing pause–a wet erupting from the son’s mouth, then the mother’s, twin rivers glinting of a light.

Behind, the father watched the ashes fall off on his tired stretch-marked belly.  He lit another pack.  The lights went off and on and off and on.  Their power bill would be enormous.

This terrified me when I read this in the middle of the night.  Not for that, but it’s the sort of thing I don’t want to read alone.


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