She didn’t mean to hit him with the rake. That’s his interpretation, anyway. And it seemed reasonable to assume that the sharp bending blow of tines to skull just shy of that visible ledge where the barber switched from scissors to clippers against the hair’s wearer’s wishes was entirely unintentional. Such music they made, those tines, and so short the duration, two measures with a long sustain, fifteen tuning forks attuned to his skull, malheureusement for her amusement. The twelve-year old girl held the quivering tines to her ear where it tickled her bright blonde hair, then put the rake back up into the head of the tree where it could grab at the leaves. She resumed her work, moving stormily, singing. “It’s much easier to pull the leaves off the tree than to wait for autumn. It’s boring.” And, also, and furthermore the brown recluse spider, Loxosceles reclusa, causes quick necrosis of the flesh and my god its proximity to the boy’s cerebellum was all the convincing she needed —
“Of course I forgive her,” he said to himself, inscribing the acquittal on staff paper fifteen years and several careers later. Their reunion was full of hugs, then kisses, then further delights. “I have to forgive her. I forgave her when she accidentally unloaded the wheelbarrow onto my foot two months ago. Stones make the tray top-heavy and she’s a woman — top heavy, too, too much for her to handle, and with only one wheel, spinning ‘round and ‘round. I’ll always forgive —” and why not? The musicality of the pain speeds clemency along, regardless of whether it’s made by gut-punching tuba, perfectly timed timpani, or tightening strings. And when it’s over, there will only be more gardening.
It’s not over. He awoke with a dry mouth and a tongue that could do no licking. His music room was his sick-room, his familiar things were covered in sick-dust. Strings looked old, papers were piled without care on his desk, the grime in the accordion’s bellows was visible from his bed. He reached for the get-well card on the side table. It was printed in black and white and he thought about taking its advice and then he thought better of it. The smoking koala on the front muttered its benediction in smoky rings. The note inside was brief. “Get well. I love you.” He read it without punctuation. He knew E. E. Cummings and took quick liberties with her text. “Get / Well I love / You.” Which he then translated, through the stinging in his ears, into “Get the Hell / Out of Love.” “PS You look lovely in a coma,” she had written. “I’ve been in a coma, I’ve never been in a coma before. How long was I out?” he thought. It wasn’t as surreal as he expected it to be and he was disappointed. Days, weeks, months, maybe years lost in the past, the present suddenly skipping over a caesura and resuming itself without the couresy of an ellipsis, or footnote. A non-memory is better than a bad memory. He couldn’t move his left hand and he vaguely recalled or imagined a doctor saying in accented syllables that his lip was drooping a bit, nurse, unfortunate for a young man, and the eyelid of that side wasn’t quite opening as much as it should, nurse. Interesting. Maybe it was a stroke or a migraine or a concussion — at least the first two couldn’t be her fault. His heart beat a limpid symmetry, surtout, an endless song without coda whose melody was impossible to sort out. Or maybe it was the same measure, repeated ad infinitum. Return to coma. He chuckled. No flowers in the room, but a get-well card in his hand. Koalas barely have tails, which means they barely end. Zeno would like that, since they barely don’t end. He wondered if koalas were endangered. Nobody wants to kill a koala, let alone a koala in a coma. Australians are peace-loving people. Chlamydia, on the other hand — even a koala needs to fuck.
He suddenly wanted to escape. He wanted to leave everything. His music room, his brain, his useless degrees, his compositions. He wanted to escape her. She had to be here. In the garden, probably. He didn’t feel like a coward, but he didn’t want to be loved or love anymore. Who flees love? He flees love. Who do fleas love? Fleas love koalas. He considered his escape with the aid of whimsical pain killers. A violent means of transportation to suit the fled-from girl—a truck without a muffler and a dodgy clutch—the cowcatcher of a steam locomotive chugging him past an elder America—a hot air balloon loaded with nails, aloft on a frigid winter midnight crackling with diamond dust (alas, the autumn lingers)—bareback on a mastiff overfed on neighbor-fright and poodle dreams. Grand gestures deserve grand gestures, but he hadn’t the energy. He couldn’t leave. He remained in bed. He assumed his present state was her fault. It might as well be. Even indirectly, just being with her had some effect on his current situation. He hummed a little Mahler, the Symphony No. 5 in C sharp minor, foisted upon him by his mother in better times, before she moved in next door, became a childhood friend, a childhood terror. What have I to fear of love? he thought to himself. Embarrassed by the grandiose syntax, he cut off its head and gently set it at its feet. Have I to fear of love ellipsis what? But it was even worse. Blame the drugs, by jingo.
Clickety footsteps, sehr langsam. Hers. March of the arthropods. The heavy steps of a thin, lithe woman who has yet to lose her youth. Has she come for love? He really hoped not. She entered his room with a hatchet. “You’re awake!” she said, but didn’t rush over to hug him. Instead, “The door needs repair. Where is the tarp?” she asked.
“The tarp?” he replied, eyeing the instrument of fairy-tale pain in her hand—girl with no hands, de-satiated wolf, red shoes, hunters and fathers and her. Must remember to read pleasanter things. She walked in.
“I don’t mean to hover,” she said, “but I feel light-headed.”
“Head wound?” he asked, ignoring his wobbly cheek.
“No. I love you, you’re awake, that makes me dizzy.”
“Vertigo?” In his mind, he called her a liar.
“If love is heights, sure.” She edged closer. “The door needs repair.”
“I can do it.”
“I doubt it. Hey, unbutton your pajamas. It’s been ages.”
He thought of the shed, a tin hut containing so many implements of her love and he wondered what the tarp might be hiding under. If I was a tarp, I’d—
“Quit thinking about your mother,” mit größter Vehemenz. She was flirting.
“I wasn’t thinking about my mother.”
“If you didn’t love me, you wouldn’t be palpating the mattress right now.”
She was right. He unbuttoned his pajama shirt, and everything seemed normal except his breathing. He suddenly made sense of it all. He watched her as she drew the blinds closed. He winked at her, but she didn’t notice. He winked a second time. The tarp was under the snowblower. She approached with swaying hips, Trauermarsch. He tried winking again. He wondered, what silence makes her move so? What music makes her blind to me?
About the Author: BRHischier was born in Joliet, Illinois, a Chicago suburb best known for its prisons. He has been published in Hyperion: On the Future of Aesthetics, with several essays on art appearing in galleries in Chicago and New York. A wavering aesthetic agnostic thanks to Duchamp and Pinterest, he currently writes about the relevance of art and literature in the 21st century at his website www.amnesium.net. He lives in Kansas City, has finished several novels, and tweets from @brhischier.
Photo (c) bek30