If you love, adore the moon. If you rob, steal a camel.

Stories for the Long Silk Road

Sunday, November 25, 2012

David Weisberg: Salt

What had he done? Something bad. What had she done in the dark room? Something bad with her eyes closed. Something bad with her mouth open and he hurting her and she letting him. The next morning my elbow didn’t hurt and the bed was wet and Mama was frying bacon and he was gone.

He walked back in with a cigarette paper stuck by sweat to his palm. Thumb and forefinger pinched the tobacco, rubbing together like a cricket’s legs. Brown and black, dry, he rolled it in the paper with one hand and lit it with the other. Mama was on the couch but she got up and grabbed him. It was hot. The fan wasn’t working. The windows stuck shut and they shut the door behind them.

I watched through the crack. Mama’s pale skin thick with veins, her legs curled around him. Outline of his body pressed against hers, she moved backward when he moved forward; that when her back arched his body bent too; that if her head fell back his mouth fell to her neck, or if it bent forward his chin rested on her shoulder.  They never asked each other if they could. I didn’t ask if I could watch either, because some nights they waited for me to go to sleep, or because some nights Mama sent me outside to get wood when he got there, or because some nights when he got there he touched her in the living room and I saw and she looked at me and bent her eyebrows like she was angry and then sent me to bed like it was me who done something wrong.

But sometimes she’d sit us down and fixed up some chicken legs, or some steak, or a bowl of pasta, or some fish. I didn’t like fish— she gutting it first, then scaling it, then washing the body but leaving the head because he liked to eat the eyes. Some salt on it wet quick and disappearing. Then she’d dash some pepper, I could count them all but didn’t know if I could, all the black and gray specks. Fish on the pan jaw stuck open waiting to die again, and I thought he was trying to scream, or maybe just trying to sing a long note, or maybe got some salt in its mouth and trying to clear his throat.

She was on the couch most nights sweating, legs together, hands on her lap, eyes moving from the TV to the door. Her hairs stuck to the side of her face and crossed over each other like the vines on the tree behind the house. I used to watch her pick at them, pull them off, press them back against her head. I’d ask her what she was waiting for and her lips would purse and her chin would tremble and she’d tell me to go back to my markers, to bring over the laundry, to get some more meat from the freezer in the shed and set it in water to defrost for the morning. Sometimes she’d forget to tell me to come inside from playing and I’d come in from the dark and her eyes would be wet and she wouldn’t even notice. But lots of times Mama’d be in bed already and I’d be watching TV with the lights off and he’d come through the door in his gray jacket and hang it on the hook on the door and all the light through the window from the porch lantern as he bent to remove his boots. 

He came as the night coming, passing over the trees and the lawn and the car and the windowsills and into her room—his teeth like a slice of moon, beading stars down his shoulder,  the whites of his eyes when they were open and watching her like the lights of a car behind us when we’d drive home late from town. Or like animal eyes in the dark that I watched through my window. Or like the time I poured pepper all over the fish when she wasn’t watching so you could barely see the flesh anymore but kept the eyes clear because I knew Mama’d get mad. I thought she’d like that but she just threw it out and microwaved some chicken nuggets and sent me to bed.

And when I watched I always thought that’s not Mama, that’s just the night making noises. That’s just the wail of the cicada and the growl of the coyote. That’s just the hoot of the owl, the purr of the mountain lion. That’s just the sound of the chicken clucking in the barn, or the snake that bit me in the field, hissing in the dark. That’s just the fish if it jumped right out of the lake, oiled and peppered in the pan, waiting for the oven, singing.

Silk Road Mantra

by Suchoon Mo

bury me not

in the lone Silk Road

I go and go

from west to east

I go and go

from east to west

bury me not

in the lone Silk Road


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