Marshall, 3.C.3, 4550 words

The appearances of that mother, Connie, are arrhythmic. She appears with enough frequency that she always is sure to come back. He dresses himself. Hearing the works of the door from the upholstered club chair, whatever time of day, Jacky rushes to fold himself into long underwear, into the bed. Finding him in there, in the dim, and retrieving him from the bed she dresses him, methodically assembling smart outfits from contradicting layers, making sure each is exposed where it could be: his pinstripe pant cuffs highwater’d to showcase paisley socks, plaid sleeve cuffs pulled long to bloom from sweater cuffs, buttons undone on the plaid shirt reveal the cartoon face of a dinosaur or scruffy cat printed on his undershirt. She laces his shoes loose and belts his pants loose. Though all the components are present and represent a more formal little boy than would haunt an empty suite of rooms, each garment is in disrepair with stains, frayed hems, worn down to the interfacing, and ill-fitting on the large end. As an ensemble they gently build an impression of gravity unsuitable for a child, though the precision of their application hides the disgraceful state of each garment. As he wallows and worries over the clothes she slips out. A loose click translates through the wood door jamb into a thud followed by the latch setting with a click and a deeper thud in the wood door panels. These combine into a rattling, almost singular blow. Jacky slips from the room through the small kitchen to engage the chain on the door. When Mister Twill comes to call his knock is soft and alluring. The choir of three fingers taps with their tips. The tapping pulses on Jacky’s skin in wooden strokes. The latch lets out smooth and silent. Silver sunlight sags in the open door, through the slot of opening. The clean, moist face, a weak chin attempting pride with cheeks cropped by stile and jamb, sits back above the security chain over worn blue chambray, curled over itself with the sun. His pupils struggle to maintain their geometry. He speaks timidly. “I needed to see you.” “I’m here. See me?” “You’re so young.” “So you see me.” “I needed to see you. For your mother.” “See me?” “I do. Very Good.” While talking he slides a bag of rice across the floor with the tip of his foot. He leans away as Jacky pushes forward against the door. Queasy, glaucous humidity laps from Mister Twill’s hand in the door as he withdraws. The jambs are swollen. The latch groans, thuds, but doesn’t click into engagement. Jacky remains out in the front room and burrows into the sunken cushions of the club chair. He wriggles against the striated upholstery cradling himself in a shallow recess and feeling the fabric textures through his clothes. From there the terrain below is not visible through the window down the face of the building that holds his rooms. Across the chasm windows are banked in high columns. Fleeting movements shiver the framed vista. The far curtain pleats undulate. Segments of scribbled and lopsided spiral bird flights trace across the vista. In the lulls Jack focuses without lapse on a window level with, but just offset from his, the most visible from the chair, across the chasm. The curtain behind the glass is dark, slick and stiff, and sways like a pendulum. Reflections from all about confuse the subtle actions in the window. His square scrutiny flattens the features together. The curtain levers back just to sharpen an acute spear of darkness of the room beyond. Three fingers from the middle knuckle hook about the seam. Jacky pulls cushions down and constructs a small pillowed cell. Voices rise and fall through the walls. In his room rustling hair across plaster is audible. That Connie begins to find Jacky dressed for her visits. He is sitting up in the front room in colorless dawn. A bowl of rice is steaming on the dusty low table. Or, a flaky and dry bowl with lip skin scabbed spoon is on the dusty low table. From one instant to the next the sun seems to have dawned and thrown itself well above the horizon. Dust emerges in dull contrast. She takes a regimented tour of the front room that stalls her eventual arrival in Jacky’s landlocked chamber. Her first stop is the nominal galley kitchen where she retrieves a rag that she moistens, a fabric brush, and a duster sprouted with plastic streamers. In the meticulous grid of an archaeological site she tends to the surfaces and props of the front room. The damp rag is caked and strewn with the alluvial silt of Jacky’s skin stretched off, with the erosion of the cheap walls. Each piece of furniture touches the carpet completely. They cast no shadows nor harbor secret terrains. She tilts them back to extend the marks of her sweeper fully across the carpet. The unbroken seal of sweeper nap patterns affirms her belief she had never been gone. “You are old enough to keep things straight.” She divests a litany of jobs in their rooms to him. Wipe down surfaces. Clean intersections. Brush fabric. Orient and register decorative objects. Stock the linens. Sweep the carpet… cover your tracks! Make the bed… tight! She pulls the door behind her clicking, thudding, repeating, rattling, altogether. Jacky chains the door. The litany of jobs takes just several minutes to complete. Jacky remains out in the front room and burrows into the club chair. From one instant to the next the sun seems to have set and furled the day out of his rooms and the chasm. Through the dark he moves. The small boy sits fully dressed in the dark with his shoes laced, arms folded. He wanders back out to sit partially shrouded in colorless dawn. Sinuous clouds of tiny birds braid the chasm throwing bleeding shadows through the window and litter umbrage in the black glass opposite In the view from the front room a curtain teases, a blind chinks but never does an entire person appear. The dull hope to see a person at a distance, lacking detail, complete, all at once, cloisters him within range of the window. Only fragments flash. A face traces down to a bare shoulder, a chalk arm vertical in the drape vent, the coast of a chest, the held-breath of a hip appears in the curtain vent. He considers, meticulously composes, patterned and taut, his body beginning into the world past his cuffed wrists, at the latitude of his hand heels, and up his neck in the silhouette of a high-buttoned double round collar partly past the niche crowning his birdy sternum. It is odd to not otherwise be concealed by drape or veil, always present sitting in view in the window. Those whose gaze he feels upon him remain only briefly, an awkward connection longer than a sneeze, shorter than a long breath. He recedes back from the window, backed back against the back wall of the front room and as through the dark chamber of a telescope focuses on fragments and wholes of four windows opposite him. In these four as the day passes a face arises in one, the coast of flesh, the hand tracing drape hem lingers. In his clothed withdrawal from sight the burlesque escalates. A creeping hand draws slow the drape from the body like moonrise, or a leg follows foot up to the sill, the hand conjures across skin and shadows of hair, pinches flesh, all in a flash before the drape snaps shut, followed by a hesitant return peek of the face in punctuation. After a still moment the face slips free again and fixes across the chasm to transcribe a ribald riposte or chorus. As he observes the furtive exposures across the interminable solitary hours and days he takes discreet steps to find himself in states of undress: undoing the buttons on his shirt cuffs and front, slinking the vee neck of his cardigan across his shoulders, and letting his belt lay unclasped, still in the shaded recesses beyond sight. He rolls up his sleeves, teases up his trouser legs; he drops his waistband just to where the air on his skin causes a spasm. He hangs the flat sheet from his bed on nails protruding from the plaster above the window and stands behind it clothed, buttoned, sealed though shaking as if nude, as if alive in the company of another alive, as if exchanging poses with the neighbor man, they standing across the same room from one another. A knock at the window freezes Jacky. He pries back the sheet hem. A small breathless pebble of a bird rests on the brick window sill. Many curtains sway across the chasm. A few partial faces haunt. Their eyes fix on the framed curve of his neck. They follow the gesture of his hand and his slender fingers teasing the hem and the window jamb. The coy manipulation of his chin to sweep up his neck to the glow of reflected light draws faces more fully into their windows. The simple language of the body’s sheen, clammy edges and clammy ends telegraph his first signals of brief hails and introductions to the timid lookers. The hair on his neck rises like warm grass, like unfurling fiddleheads. The tingling magnetizes dullness. It sweeps Jacky’s senses away from his skin. Where his senses are ferried along into blood new eddies of pressure draw down deeper. The notion that he is left behind and alone is reasonable in the dark prickles of this pleasure. His isolation is imperative to feel it. When dark curtains draw behind the far windows Jacky can see more clearly the reflected windows in his wall. He looks for his face. He learns the other faces. Their leers and oblivion pull and distort features into inhuman banality. Connie finds him fully buttoned up in his room. “Has Mister Twill been to see you?” “Has Mister Twill brought you food?” “Has Mister Twill been spending time here?” “Have you seen Mister Twill?” The bed is made. She gives in to breathing the air in the rooms, sitting on the little soft bench, and scans over him as if he were a checklist and smiles distantly as if smiling at the wall. Her eye sockets caved in brown and prickly set her squinting eyes like scars in the dried bruises of pale fruit. She is wispy and whispery dry paper. He sticks out from his cuffs alabaster and sweaty. His clothes bind. “I need new clothes.” “These are fine.” “These are growing tight. I’m growing.” “I like these. These fit you.” “It doesn’t matter.” “It matters.” “To who?” “It matters to us.” A pattern of freckles bends around his forearm and into the shirt cuff. She pulls the door behind her clicking, thudding, repeating, rattling, altogether. She is gone. He is popping open buttons, unzipping and contorting out of the small clothes. They lay in dismembered piles paved toward the window. Watching and posing through the sealed window, reaching out over glass and precipice, the glare on his skin over shadowy ground reveals the awkward details of his youthful frame. He passes hours performing for his neighbors. He rarely remains dressed. The clothes bind more aggressively. Dashed blush and raw lines of seam ligature circumscribe his limbs, mottled abrasions define inside joints with deep capillary shading, vectors surface over long bones, bruised pores bloom over outside joints. The inscriptions slick cool with nervous sweat and deeper red. He sits naked facing backwards on a stiff chair. His legs curl around its back, in the shape of an hourglass top. He mugs through the ajar vent in the drape. His innocent poses mimic the sophisticated and ornate seductions from the other windows in fragmented and meaningless combinations. Reflected sunlight draws a trace up his thigh and his hand and his skin seeks the sun. Reflected faces are impossible to geometrically pinpoint in the wall of his own building. He recognizes all the true faces, all the reflected faces. More faces are better. Many more eyes thicken the dull coat of his nudity. He gyrates and rubs against the upholstery such that the pate of his ass rhythmically breaches the sunlight from the drape vent, comes into view. More than the belief that the slivered tease shows he puts on are widely received he invests in the movements that cannot be seen behind the curtain, that never could be seen lest one other invalid found a way to him, his room, and watched the coy hand gestures around his face, the mouthed ohs, the tossed hair, or heard the hoarse dragging sound of his skin on the textured fabric, the breathiness of his skin on his skin. He has no notion beyond the immediate peace of the distraction what extents the poses reach toward in adulthood, that what he occupies is on a long orbit toward adulthood, that he occupies a space similar to the other lookers. The rhythms of pressure against his blood vessels send meaningless and confusing signals across his skin. Sinuous clouds of tiny birds braid the chasm. He recognizes the usual oblivion deformed faces reflected in dark windows, black eyes. Their hands overlap with the hands of those truly behind the windows. Their faces compound. Jacky looks for his reflected face to pinpoint the faces next to his. A soft and alluring knock pulses on Jacky’s skin in wooden strokes. Jacky dresses quickly and carelessly. He covers his skin. The latch lets out smooth and silent. Silver sunlight sags in the open door, through the slot of opening. Jacky inspects the familiar clean face, a weak chin attempting pride with cheeks cropped by stile and jamb, sitting back over worn blue chambray, curled over itself with the sun. Mister Twill speaks timidly. “I needed to see you.” “I’m here. See me?” “I do. Very Good.” He slides a bag of rice through the door with his foot. He leans away as Jacky pushes forward. The jambs are swollen. The latch groans, thuds, but doesn’t click into engagement. Jacky disrobes and nestles into the sofa. Beneath vague and distant humming the disc at the end of the door chain ticks on the jamb. The crisp sound is swept into the humming, is amplified in steps, and smacks the walls flat like thunder first tearing open the soft focus sky. Jacky crosses the room to engage the chain in the door. On a whim, in his windowless room he makes love to the small upholstery-topped bench. Its little legs draw vigorous loops in the nap of the carpet. It creaks. The turned wood legs like strings of beads bend. He is conscious only of sensations on his skin, then only of the textures and surfaces that might imprint those sensations. Jacky surveys the landscape of his skin from within, through light and sick sweet oils pooled in each pore. He wanders beneath the dappled light of threadbare fabric before the sun and is swaddled in its shelter. The sensations entrance. Somewhere unplaceable, diffused, course upholstery draws across his hip and the plutonic outcropping of his pelvis. All expressions are in his personal language. In isolation he never would receive feedback or interpretations, nor would he want them. The poses and tempos are simply a way to pass the time. The enzyme taste in his cheeks, the absent stare, absent structure, absent gestation of intention, sweat, and chafing lack conscious proximity to their residual or telegraphed effects. He recognizes his prolonged nakedness only in the tingling gooseflesh, the wriggling into and out of clothes. Connie appears. The burnished door latch clicks free and scans across its arc under Connie’s hand. A regimented tour of the front room stalls her eventual arrival in Jacky’s landlocked chamber where he races to lace up his body in the little outfit. Her first stop is the nominal galley kitchen where she checks for dirty or drying dishes. She squeals her finger across the sink. In the meticulous grid of an archaeological site she inspects the front room. She rakes her fingernail into intersecting surfaces; her palm rides across the eroded hardpack of the cheap walls. She tilts back each piece of furniture to confirm the continuity of the carpet sweeper nap tracks. The diminutive reassurance of fabric pulling away from fabric, folds releasing folds, near enough to silence, faints at the edge of Jacky’s room. His shuffling on carpet is audible. Connie comes to the door. He sits awake on the little bench, bound up in his clothes. He swells against the cuffs riding up his forearms and gathering like tourniquets at his joints. He crosses his legs to the embroidery of fiery tingles, and both palms rest on his knees. A shadow of them both casts back to the door from city light in the window wavering from walls of malignant, webby irises. She is mildly repelled from the room, from Jacky, by her awareness of their imminent reseparation. In this window just enough time exists to reestablish the odd jobs and unverifiable regimentation she requires of Jacky. “Do this… do that… now… then… before… later… avoid doing… orange dusk… the rains… take steps to… be sure to… always… never… be wary of…” She pecks into the room, maintaining a distance from Jacky, scanning him. He distracts his eyes with something in the corner, a mark on the carpet. She sits on the little bench and slouches. “We’ll have to be sure to…” and she was gone. She pulls the door behind her clicking, thudding, repeating, rattling, altogether. The door chain ticks on the jamb. The crisp sound amplifies against the walls, through the walls. Jacky and the little stool creak. The rooms hum. Rhythms compete and overlap in clots of groaning. Wind burdens the window loose in its jamb. Jacky and the little stool creak. Soft shadows under his feet undulate over the carpet. Dust storms of his gray form throb on the blank wall. The window groans. Plaid, polka dot, hounds tooth, toile, herringbone, argyle, stripes in every direction, paisley, competing blocks of color, disparate, lost pasts and misaligned bodies strew the carpet in the series of doors and throats from kitchen to front room to inner room. The door chain ticks. The thumb latch turns. Mister Twill is inside. He stills the chain and engages it in the door. Absent its tick on the jamb rapid decay shears at the thicket of sounds and halting Jacky’s hump. Mister Twill’s sock feet shuttle across the knots of carpet into the front room. Knowing its geography inversely by heart he spends just a moment orienting to its tangible qualities. He places his palm on the upholstered seat by the window. It has a shallow, beaten-down texture and oily perfume. All nude Jacky panting creeps into the kitchen and crouches behind cabinets. Mister Twill slides into the little throat of space and to the inner room passing the shed clothes eyes darting. He slows his search to savor the intimate dimness. The room is cluttered with an encrustation of trinkets, keepsakes, and small pieces of furniture. The mess is regimented by dust drifts and dark corners. He gums at the soft odor of breath and outgrown skin. He tongues his gums. Jacky moves to the front room knowing Mister Twill will emerge to the kitchen. Knowing his nude skin is imprisoned in distant windows, knowing this is the reflection, knowing through the three rooms the revolving chase will perpetuate in a crawl he stands steeled waiting in the little throat to the kitchen. Mister Twill appears reflected in glossy metal over the stove. His black eyes bob, mouth curls hissing. Jacky steps out before him, “I know your face.” Mister Twill’s lashes fan together. His black eye sockets rustle. “Yes. Of course. We’ve met.” “No. Your other face. The opposite face. In the window.” “I needed to see you.” “Yes. You’ve seen me. You see me.” Mister Twill is clammy. “I have a key. Your mother gave me the key.” “Get out.” Jacky wanders but does not know what to see. He longs but equates only inert touches. He ages but misplaces the wells of his youth. He eats burnt rice. He ingests toxins; they are his due. His sleep is no different than waking. He swells against the seams of his clothes. The vent in the window sheet pulls wider. He rises from the chair. The emboldened eyes fixed upon him, retaining him, freezing and recording his youthful improvisation. The sheet is gone from the window. Necks crane along with his movements, recessions, his poses. The staging of his performance is inescapable. He eats from cans and they thrall. He crawls along the baseboard extracting clumps of lithified fluff and long oily hairs from the carpet. When he returns to the chair a peripheral roiling movement of pressed glass faces assembles. He falls asleep in a slump. The faces sit watch. It is too much. He sits in a chair, focusing on his posture. The clothing conspires to wither him like an acquiescent bloom. He moves to reclining on his hip and elbow across the club chair. He tugs at the fabric around his crotch, kneading aside flesh to as yet unchafed skin against the catenary of seams vaulting against his scrotum. It is not late but the rooms have grown dark around him. He sits in the stiff chair and casts his rump as square in the mold of the seat and back crook as it will. He cranes down drawing forward and together his shoulders. Shivers sheet up his neck. The downy silver light from brick and glass reflections, from slim threads of curtain peeks, illuminates his way through the room, through different poses in the dark, very awake. He twists a cuff, slides a buttock forward. A dusty thread slid into the flaky leaves of his hair trails behind him. He seems to find reason to take action, to move from spot to spot, though glazes over again. The harsh and distinct angles at which the walls, ceiling, and floor intersect seeming to cast proven rays of scrutinizing geometry into each pose and segue. He languishes at the tips of eight hollow needles. Where he shies from one his skin draws against others. Thus his body contorts. He fancies the tips of soft buttery fingers. The faces sit lower in the windows as the gallery took to kneeling. The swelling against his skin is constant. He swells into other forms. That Jacky is a youth. He is unrecognizable to this reclining Connie. A soft, sweaty cheese thin and downy plasters his bare skin. In his blank eyes irises are webby with murk and coalesce into a single tone. He is on the little bench and grinding his hips and his toes dig and bend like remote pistons. A dim, blank wall frames his stationary head and shoulders. The active light of the world’s spinning winds broken loose from the room leaves a flat, grainy static. The hasty brush strokes and low relief patch jobs in uniform, shadowless hue long ago succumbed to the brief tedium of their blank aspirations. The patterns and spots and crack cursive he had deciphered as a boy are blank in a chorus of static. He is bound in courds, flannel, knit plastics, like a choking lattice but he doesn’t struggle. Perhaps it will do its work on him, if he grows into its strangulation just a bit more. And trailing the harbinger of its sounds that Connie’s face develops in the dawny doorway. “I see a blank spot in the dust. What was that? The little box with the rainbow? Put it back. It’s over there. I see it. Put it back there now. What is that little bench doing turned? I’m not coming in. I won’t. I have to go. Turn the bench back against the vanity. Square it up. There is a dust bunny by the bed. Smooth the bed. Were you sitting on the bed? Look at your footprints everywhere. I can’t come in. I have to go. Get the cobwebs off the wall. I only have a minute. What was the bench doing turned?” She sits on the bench facing him on the chair. Raging capillaries simmer to surface against his skin between the gates of his collar bones. “Your clothes are bunched.” The nap in the carpet in the corner, where the bench began the morning, described the touchdown of four little tornadoes where the legs had sturdied themselves and yielded to him. The marks stood out like dimples on a die. Connie scanned the carpet methodically. They sat in silence. Jacky’s breathing is shallow and his swallows click and he swallows after each breath. He struggles to keep from looking to the marks. He works up his posture against the garment bindings to hold him absolutely static. Dark shade seems to creep over the corner, blurring the carpet texture. “Are we straight?” “Yes,” he choked, and she was gone, clicking, thudding, repeating, rattling, altogether. He shuffles his house shoes around the little humped whorls and shuffles around the room like a train. He whispers a song. “No one knows my heart’s direction…” he creaks. “So young… So young…” His breathing still is slender and squeezes through the cinched up little collar; the little collar points flap and strain like starved gills. His hands are scarlet sausages below the shirt cuffs and one eye pulses and he shuffles and chugs over the carpet. The little marks in the carpet are buffed out. “So, so, so young…” with thickened breaths. Dense rattling, rushing contents under pressure where dark watersheds burden their way past his ears, disturbing clumps of twisted and sedimented hair, thread, moistened and dried and moistened angular pills of paper pulp, carpet chaff, flakes of skating paint, and all manners of clotted and clogging tedium. All grinds in dry tumbles through his skull into alluvial fans where tenacious winter leaves rattle. He sings in expanding creaks “I’m, I’m, I’m, so young…” and then sings loosed from his bound body “Got to go now… cry myself to sleep… my lovely babies will have seen the last of me… so young…” In his rests is silence, just beneath dry vibration. His voice returns to him from the walls, from through the walls, in accompaniment and urges him on to deeper breaths, louder, fuller, and more meandering sustains. The faces see silent windows. The singing grows full with layers of paint and the paint layers of possibly neighboring rooms and possibly neighboring voices singing. In his rests smudge downy sounds of an ear against the wall. His eye swells and beats waves out across his forehead. Loud in crescendo “No one, no one, no one…” and then a wailing “Aaaah-oooooooo” falling free moan of a note falls with him to the carpet. Blood still throbbing around his head and coursing beats free to race about his brain and its secret and dry byways through burst vessels. The live eye traces and retraces a painted-over crack in the wall, disappearing behind the baseboard.

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