Sunday, December 12, 2010

Dolman Coats

Flanking the curbside a timid man with a stock-stiff leg stumbled. Lela knew this man; not so very long ago he stumbled into her as she strolled idly along the sideways, her favorite dress frilling and dancing in the midmorning breeze. Could it be him? Could it? No not him. The man she was thinking of lived beyond the five-mile and wore fishstockings, so no it couldn’t be. Anyways she hadn’t seen hide nor hair of him, nor had she given him much thought, really. He was a ghoul that lay quiescent in her thoughts; pushed back into that place where she kept memories that had frightened her when she was a formless child; a tot, her grandmamma used to say, her brow as tight as the hatband in her father’s cap. The Mormons kept a monkey in a cage hidden from sight behind the Kingdom Hall; its leper spotted coat infested with lice and wood tics. Bug-ridden and half-crazed the poor monkey scurried round and round the cage, its flea-bitten tail trailing behind it like a masochist’s whip. Lela recalled the day she first saw the monkey, one of the Mormon’s feeding it mashed up grapes, the monkey flinging itself round the cage like a furry acrobat, its eyes daring to be met. The Mormon, a cubbish man with a child’s chubby face and yellow-brown teeth, was talking to the monkey, warning it if it ever tried to run away he would wring its neck and throw its half-dead body into the aqueduct, where it would lay rotting until the Spring thaw. Then, if anybody gave a good damn, they’d scrap what remained of it from the oily green muddy bottom and throw it into the nearest trash heap, where it would unthaw and start rotting all over again. As monkeys don’t understand Mormons’, and even if they could they certainly wouldn’t care, the bug-ridden infested animal stared blankly at the stupid man crouching outside the cage, its eyes daring to be met. As this happened a long long time ago, before Lela knew the difference between a monkey and a dogman, she had mostly forgotten about the monkey; only now, standing in front of the grocer’s swatting flies off the picnic hams having an inkling of what she’d saw.

Above the screen door to the grocer’s was a sign that read: “If all my life and my being were judged by a few incidents it would rightly be determined that I was a complete imbecile”. (Felisberto Hernández) The owner, a cheat with caterpillar eyebrows and a sneak’s grin, sat on a wooden stool behind the counter counting the day’s take: $27 plus the two he stole from the old woman’s handbag when she wasn’t looking. ‘Not a bad day’s take’ he thought to himself stuffing the pilfered two dollar bill in his apron pocket, ‘the old biddy shouldn’t have nodded off… stupid cow. What’s a hardworking man to do?’ Turning, his brown teeth sticking out and upwards like walrus tusks, he locked the strongbox and placed it under the counter. ‘anyhow serves her right. Maybe next time she’ll be more careful, feeble cow’. He placed a crate of iced cowfish on the top shelf behind the counter with the hope that by the time he arrived in the morning it would be unthawed and ready to be sold. ‘cowfish for a cow’ he said to himself, his front teeth touching the end of his nose, and slamming shut the screen door hurried down the street like a burglar.

The West Ham Newham Glove Co., owned and operated by John J.J. Newham, manufacture Dolman coats, a one-piece garment with led pellets in the hems to keep the coat from riding up on the wearer. Above the cutting table, written in gargantuan block letters, by the hand of a behemoth, perhaps, or a hippopotamus, even though one hadn’t been seen in the vicinity in years, nay eons, was the following epitaph: "Everything is possible, everything, even the most sordid and undignified things." (Robert Walser, Jakob von Gunten) His father, J.J. the elder, beat his mamma with the wooden skeins the coat cloth came wrapped in, his mamma shrieking and moaning like a wounded animal.

1 comment:

Hawk said...

amazing!!!I was not aware you could write like this.

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"Poetry is the short-circuiting of meaning between words, the impetuous regeneration of primordial myth". Bruno Schulz

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