Charles Freeland

The Deed it has Projected

That thing that scurries between houses, that takes the shadows with it as if they were
pieces of fabric, has turned up again in the town by the river. Whenever the residents
there get together to discuss what they are going to do about it, an argument breaks out
that has very little to do with their original goals or intentions. We think we know what
will happen next. But we don't operate as if being certain is necessary. For instance, you
can iron your shirt and not care one way or another if it gets burned until after the fact.
After you have shown up at your in-laws with the mark on your sleeve and a boil on your
chin. There is nothing you could have done about the latter, of course, but that's not the
point. The point is we must find a way around our obstacles, self-imposed or no. Much
the same way Solomon did when he ordered the use of the Shamir worm. Because iron
tools were forbidden in the construction of the Temple, the Shamir came in handy, as it
split any stone over which it crawled. And so there was the just the matter of wrangling to
consider. The difficulties of working under a midday sun.

Compared to the Weather in Perpetuity


She follows the script with her index finger, says a few lines under her breath, but doesn't
like that they taste like almonds. Something is definitely causing a fissure. Something is
pulling at the atmosphere with its claws.


We love the way words come out of one another as if they were being born. We even
have a name for the phenomenon, but it isn't dignified and to utter it in mixed company
often results in pinched nerves and accusations that sound vaguely like compliments.


He rolls over to the very edge of the bed, feigns sleep by smacking at his lips like
an elderly man. Though, in truth, he is not so far from that condition.


The audacity of it all makes her stomach turn. How does he know what he sounds like
when he's sleeping? Why try to invent things and hope for verisimilitude when sign
language would work just as well? Or admitting that the wine glasses were not cleaned
properly, were left out for everyone to see.


The feeling in one's gut on such occasions is not to be confused with shame. It is a
lackluster thing picked up on our travels to Bangkok, a stowaway of sorts with very
slippery skin and the habit of wishing us happy anniversary before the year is up. Before
we even know that something occurred in the past that was worth commemorating.


He dries off in the morning with a newspaper, rubs it under his arms and around his chest
as if he is hoping the headlines, the market report will rub off, will color his flesh with its


But she knows this is just the sort of simple-minded diversion she has always fallen for in
the past. That has caused her grief and even altered her identity, the way we sometimes
wish we knew more languages than we do. And will even say a word or two out loud that
we think sounds Dutch when we are certain no one in the vicinity actually knows that tongue.


And then we demur, we backtrack and insist that those who accompany us are mistaken.
They did not hear anything of significance.


But of course, there is a smile on the face, a wry grin testifying in no uncertain terms to
the opposite proposition. To the reality of that which we deny. Because we'd like to be
thought numerous things at once. Even those that have the habit of cancelling one another
out -- like skin, say, and ammonia.

As the Total of the One is to the Total of the Other

She thinks him without substance -- a diffuse and undifferentiated thing that wanders
the mountainside at night, tells strangers tales that have no point. In one of these a piece of
string hangs from a cosmonaut's pocket. It experiences gravity the same way we do --
meaning it falls more often than it would like. It envisions a future of injury, of
incapacitation. Someone's going to go the wrong way. It's inevitable. The sooner we
accept the bargain is not a bargain, but a decoy, the sooner we can get back to the
elevators. To the songs that nearly always refer to Bulgaria. And we can grab up
whatever celery is on the plate along the way. As if we won't know what the climax
sounds like without such assistance. Without the ladders threatening to fall over at the
slightest provocation. She says she allows him to touch her body because no one else
will. But he doubts this is an adequate explanation. She looks like the kind of woman
who will gladly speak to you on an airplane if only you will initiate the conversation.
Who otherwise prefers to be left alone with her Wired magazine and her whiskey sour,
her eyes lined a bit around the edges and her voice caught in her throat like an animal.
And not a particularly rare one.

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