Book One: In Watermelon Sugar In Watermelon Sugar in watermelon sugar the deeds were done and done again as my life is done in watermelon sugar. I'll tell you about it because I am here and you are distant. Wherever you are, we must do the best we can. It is so far to travel, and we have nothing here to travel, except watermelon sugar. I hope this works out. I live in a shack near ideath. I can see ideath out the window. It is beautiful. I can also see it with my eyes closed and touch it. Right now it is cold and turns like something in the hand of a child. I do not know what that thing could be. There is a delicate balance in ideath. It suits us. The shack is small but pleasing and comfortable as my life and made from pine, watermelon sugar and stones as just about everything here is. Our lives we have carefully constructed from watermelon sugar and then travelled to the length of our dreams, along roads lined with pines and stones. I have a bed, a chair, a table and a large chest that I keep my things in. I have a lantern that burns watermelontrout oil at night. That is something else. I'll tell you about it later. I have a gentle life. I go to the window and look out again. The sun is shining at the long edge of a cloud. It is Tuesday and the sun is golden. I can see piney woods and the rivers that flow from those piney woods. The rivers are cold and clear and there are trout in the rivers. Some of the rivers are only a few inches wide. I know a river that is half-an-inch wide. I know because I measured it and sat beside it for a whole day. It started raining in the middle of the afternoon. We call everything a river here. We're that kind of people. I can see fields of watermelons and the rivers that flow through them. There are many bridges in the piney woods and in the fields of watermelons. There is a bridge in front of this shack. Some of the bridges are made of wood, old and stained silver like rain, and some of the bridges are made of stone gathered from a great distance and built in the order of that distance, and some of the bridges are made of watermelon sugar. I like those bridges best. We make a great many things out of watermelon sugar here �I'll tell you about it�including this book being written near 1DEATH. All this will be gone into, travelled in watermelon sugar. Margaret this morning there was a knock at the door. I could tell who it was by the way they knocked, and I heard them coming across the bridge. They stepped on the only board that makes any noise. They always step on it. I have never been able to figure this out. I have thought a great deal about why they always step on that same board, how they cannot miss it, and now they stood outside my door, knocking. I did not acknowledge their knocking because I just wasn't interested. I did not want to see them. I knew what they would be about and did not care for it. Finally they stopped knocking and went back across the bridge and they, of course, stepped on the same board: a long board with the nails not lined up right, built years ago and no way to fix it, and then they were gone, and the board was silent. I can walk across the bridge hundreds of times without stepping on that board, but Margaret always steps on it. My Name I guess you are kind of curious as to who I am, but I am one of those who do not have a regular name. My name depends on you. Just call me whatever is in your mind. If you are thinking about something that happened a long time ago: Somebody asked you a question and you did not know the answer. That is my name. Perhaps it was raining very hard. That is my name. Or somebody wanted you to do something. You did it. Then they told you what you did was wrong--"Sorry for the mistake,"--and you had to do something else. That is my name. Perhaps it was a game that you played when you were a child or something that came idly into your mind when you were old and sitting in a chair near the window. That is my name. Or you walked someplace. There were flowers all around. That is my name. Perhaps you stared into a river. There was somebody near you who loved you. They were about to touch you. You could feel this before it happened. Then it happened. That is my name. Or you heard someone calling from a great distance. Their voice was almost an echo. That is my name. Perhaps you were lying in bed, almost ready to go to sleep and you laughed at something, a joke unto yourself, a good way to end the day. That is my name. Or you were eating something good and for a second forgot what you were eating, but still went on, knowing it was good. That is my name. Perhaps it was around midnight and the fire tolled like a bell inside the stove. That is my name. Or you felt bad when she said that thing to you. She could have told it to someone else: Somebody who was more familiar with her problems. That is my name. Perhaps the trout swam in the pool but the river was only eight inches wide and the moon shone on ideath and the watermelon fields glowed out of proportion, dark and the moon seemed to rise from every plant. That is my name. And I wish Margaret would leave me alone. Fred A little while after Margaret left, Fred came by. He was not involved with the bridge. He only used it to get to my shack. He had nothing else to do with the bridge. He only walked across it to get to my place. He just opened the door and came in. "Hi," he said. "What's up?" "Nothing much," I said. "Just working away here." "I just came from the Watermelon Works," Fred said. "I want you to go down there tomorrow morning with me. I want to show you something about the plank press." "All right," I said. "Good," he said. "I'll see you tonight at dinner down at ideath. I hear Pauline is going to cook dinner tonight. That means we'll have something good. I'm a little tired of Al's cooking. The vegetables are always overdone, and I'm tired of carrots, too. If I eat another carrot this week I'll scream." "Yeah, Pauline's a good cook," I said. I wasn't really too much interested in food at the time. I wanted to get back to my work, but Fred is my buddy. We've had a lot of good times together. Fred had something strange-looking sticking out of the pocket of his overalls. I was curious about it. It looked like something I had never seen before. "What's that in your pocket, Fred?" "I found it today coming through the woods up from the Watermelon Works. I don't know what it is myself. I've never seen anything like it before. What do you think it is?" He took it out of his pocket and handed it to me. I didn't know how to hold it. I tried to hold it like you would hold a flower and a rock at the same time. "How do you hold it?" I said. "I don't know. I don't know anything about it." "It looks like one of those things insoiL and his gang used to dig up down at the Forgotten Works. I've never seen any thing like it," I said, and gave it back to Fred. "I'll show it to Charley," he said. "Maybe Charley will know. He knows about everything there is." "Yeah, Charley knows a lot," I said. "Well, I guess I had better be going," Fred said. He put the thing back in his overalls. "I'll see you at dinner," he said. "OK." Fred went out the door. He crossed the bridge without step ping on that board Margaret always steps on and couldn't miss if the bridge were seven miles wide. Charley's Idea after fred left it felt good to get back to writing again, to dip my pen in watermelonseed ink and write upon these sheets of sweet-smelling wood made by Bill down at the shingle factory. Here is a list of the things that I will tell you about in this book. There's no use saving it until later. I might as well tell you now where you're at-- 1: ideath. (A good place.) 2: Charley (My friend.) 3: The tigers and how they lived and how beautiful they were and how they died and how they talked to me while they ate my parents, and how I talked back to them and how they stopped eating my parents, though it did not help my parents any, nothing could help them by then, and we talked for a long time and one of the tigers helped me with my arithmetic, then they told me to go away while they finished eating my parents, and I went away. I returned later that night to burn the shack down. That's what we did in those days. 4: The Statue of Mirrors. 5: Old Chuck. 6: The long walks I take at night. Sometimes I stand for hours at a single place, without hardly moving. (I've had the wind stop in my hand.) 7: The Watermelon Works. 8: Fred. (My buddy.) 9: The baseball park. 10: The aqueduct. 11: Doc Edwards and the schoolteacher. 12: The beautiful trout hatchery at ideath and how it was built and the things that happen there. (It's a swell place for dancing.) 13: The Tomb Crew, the Shaft and the Shaft Gallows. 14: A waitress. 15: Al, Bill, others. 16: The town. 17: The sun and how it changes. (Very interesting.) 18: inaoiL and that gang of his and the place where they used to dig, the Forgotten Works, and all the terrible things they did, and what happened to them, and how quiet and nice things are around here now that they are dead. 19: Conversations and things that happen here day to day. (Work, baths, breakfast and dinner.) 20: Margaret and that other girl who carried the lantern at night and never came close. 21: All of our statues and the places where we bury our dead, so that they are forever with light coming out of their tombs. 22: My life lived in watermelon sugar. (There must be worse lives.) 23: Pauline. (She is my favorite. You'll see.) 24: And this the twenty-fourth book written in 171 years. Last month Charley said to me, "You don't seem to like making statues or doing anything else. Why don't you write a book? "The last one was written thirty-five years ago. It's about time somebody wrote another book." Then he scratched his head and said, "Gee, I remember it was written thirty-five years ago, but I can't remember what it was about. There used to be a copy of it in the sawmill." "Do you know who wrote it?" I said. "No," he said. "But he was like you. He didn't have a regular name." I asked him what the other books were about, the twenty- three previous ones, and he said that he thought one of them was about owls. "Yeah, it was about owls, and then there was a book about pine needles, very boring, and then there was one about the Forgotten Works, theories on how it got started and where it came from. "The guy who wrote the book, his name was Mike, he took a long trip into the Forgotten Works. He went in maybe a hundred miles and was gone for weeks. He went beyond those high Piles we can see on clear days. He said that there were Piles beyond those that were even higher. "He wrote a book about his journey into the Forgotten Works. It wasn't a bad book, a lot better than the books we find in the Forgotten Works. Those are terrible books. "He said he was lost for days and came across things that were two miles long and green. He refused to furnish any other details about them, even in his book. Just said they were two miles long and green. "That's his tomb down by that statue of a frog." "I know that tomb well," I said. "He has blond hair and he's wearing a pair of rust-colored overalls." "Yeah, that's him," Charley said. 10 Sundown after I finished writing for the day it was close to sundown and dinner would be ready soon down at ideath. I looked forward to seeing Pauline and eating what she would cook and seeing her at dinner and maybe I would see her after dinner. We might go for a long walk, maybe along the aqueduct. Then maybe we would go to her shack for the night or stay at ideath or come back up here, if Margaret wouldn't knock the door down the next time she came by. The sun was going down over the Piles in the Forgotten Works. They turned back far beyond memory and glowed in the sundown. 11 The Gentle Cricket I went out and stood on the bridge for a while and looked down at the river below. It was three feet wide. There were a couple of statues standing in the water. One of them was my mother. She was a good woman. I made it five years ago. The other statue was a cricket. I did not make that one. Somebody else made it a long time ago in the time of the tigers. It is a very gentle statue. I like my bridge because it is made of all things: wood and the distant stones and gentle planks of watermelon sugar. I walked down to ideath through a long cool twilight that passed like a tunnel over me. I lost sight of ideath when I passed into the piney woods and the trees smelled cold and they were growing steadily darker. 12 Lighting the Bridges I looked up through the pines and saw the evening star. It glowed a welcoming red from the sky, for that is the color of our stars here. They are always that color. I counted a second evening star on the opposite side of the sky, not as imposing but just as beautiful as the one that arrived first. I came upon the real bridge and the abandoned bridge. They were side by side across a river. Trout were jumping in the river. A trout about twenty inches long jumped. I thought it was a rather nice fish. I knew I would remember it for a long time. I saw somebody coming up the road. It was Old Chuck coming up from idea� to light the lanterns on the real bridge and the abandoned bridge. He was walking slowly because he is a very old man. Some say that he is too old to light the bridges and that he should just stay down at ideath and take it easy. But Old Chuck likes to light the lanterns and come back in the morning and put them out. Old Chuck says that everybody should have something to do and lighting those bridges is his thing to do. Charley agrees with him. "Let Old Chuck light the bridges if he feels like it. It keeps him out of mischief." 13 This is a kind of joke because Old Chuck must be ninety years old if he's a day and mischief has passed far beyond him, moving at the speed of decades. Old Chuck has bad eyes and did not see me until he was almost on top of me. I waited for him. "Hello, Chuck," I said. "Good evening," he said. "I've come to light the bridges. How are you this evening? I've come to light the bridges. Beautiful evening, isn't it?" "Yes," I said. "Lovely." Old Chuck went over to the abandoned bridge and took a six-inch match out of his overalls and lit the lantern on the ideath side of the bridge. The abandoned bridge has been that way since the time of the tigers. In those days two tigers were trapped on the bridge and killed and then the bridge was set on fire. The fire only destroyed part of the bridge. The bodies of the tigers fell into the river and you can still see their bones lying on the bottom in the sandy places and lodged in the rocks and scattered here and there: small bones and rib bones and part of a skull. There is a statue in the river alongside the bones. It is the statue of somebody who was killed by the tigers a long time ago. Nobody knows who they were. They never repaired the bridge and now it is the abandoned bridge. There is a lantern at each end of the bridge. Old Chuck lights them every evening, though some people say he is too old. The real bridge is made entirely of pine. It is a covered bridge and always dark inside like an ear. The lanterns are in the shape of faces. One face is that of a beautiful child and the other face is that of a trout. Old Chuck lit the lanterns with the long matches from his overalls. The lanterns on the abandoned bridge are tigers. "I'll walk with you down to ideatr," I said. "Oh no," Old Chuck said. "I'm too slow. You'll be late for 14 dinner." "What about you?" I said. "I've already eaten. Pauline gave me something to eat just before I left." "What are we having for dinner?" I said. "No," Old Chuck said, smiling. "Pauline told me if I met you on the road not to tell you what the dinner is tonight. She made me promise." "That Pauline," I said. "She made me promise," he said. 15 iDEATH it was about dark when I arrived at ideath. The two evening stars were now shining side by side. The smaller one had moved over to the big one. They were very close now, almost touching, and then they went together and became one very large star. I don't know if things like that are fair or not. There were lights on down at ideath. I watched them as I came down the hill out of the woods. They looked warm, calling and cheery. Just before I arrived at ideath, it changed. ideath's like that: always changing. It's for the best. I walked up the stairs to the front porch and opened the door and went in. I walked across the living room toward the kitchen. There was nobody in the room, nobody sitting on the couches along the river. That's where people usually gather in the room or they stand in the trees by the big rocks, but there was nobody there either. There were many lanterns shining along the river and in the trees. It was very close to dinner. When I got on the other side of the room, I could smell something good coming out of the kitchen. I left the room and walked down the hall that follows beneath the river. I could hear the river above me, flowing out of the living room. The river sounded fine. 16 The hall was as dry as anything and I could smell good things coming up the hall from the kitchen. Almost everybody was in the kitchen: that is, those who take their meals at ideath. Charley and Fred were talking about something. Pauline was just getting ready to serve dinner. Everybody was sitting down. She was happy to see me. "Hi, stranger," she said. "What's for dinner?" I said. "Stew," she said. "The way you like it." "Great," I said. She gave me a nice smile and I sat down. Pauline was wearing a new dress and I could see the pleasant outlines of her body. The dress had a low front and I could see the delicate curve of her breasts. I was quite pleased by everything. The dress smelled sweet because it was made from watermelon sugar. "How's the book coming?" Charley said. "Fine," I said. "Just fine." "I hope it's not about pine needles," he said. Pauline served me first. She gave me a great big helping of stew. Everybody was aware of me being served first and the size of the helping, and everybody smiled, for they knew what it meant, and they were happy for the thing that was going on. Most of them did not like Margaret any more. Almost everybody thought that she had conspired with inBOiL and that gang of his, though there had never been any real evidence. "This stew really tastes good," Fred said. He put a big spoonful of stew in his mouth, almost spilling some on his overalls. "Ummmm--good," he repeated and then said under his breath, "A lot better than carrots." Al almost heard him. He looked hard for a second over at Fred, but he didn't quite catch it because he relaxed then and said, "It certainly is, Fred." Pauline laughed slightly, for she had heard Fred's comment and I gave her a look as if to say: Don't laugh too hard, deary. You know how Al is about his cooking. 17 Pauline nodded understandingly. "Just as long as it isn't about pine needles," Charley repeated, though a good ten minutes had passed since he'd said anything and that had been about pine needles, too. 18 The Tigers after dinner Fred said that he would do the dishes. Pauline said oh no, but Fred insisted by actually starting to clear the table. He picked up some spoons and plates, and that settled it. Charley said that he thought he would go in the living room and sit by the river and smoke a pipe. Al yawned. The other guys said that they would do other things, and went off to do them. And then Old Chuck came in. "What took you so long?" Pauline said. "I decided to rest by the river. I fell asleep and had a long dream about the tigers. I dreamt they were back again." "Sounds horrible," Pauline said. She shivered and kind of drew her shoulders in like a bird and put her hands on them. "No, it was all right," Old Chuck said. He sat down in a chair. It took him a long time to sit down and then it was as if the chair had grown him, he was in so close. "This time they were different," he said. "They played musical instruments and went for long walks in the moon. "They stopped and played by the river. Their instruments looked nice. They sang, too. You remember how beautiful their voices were." Pauline shivered again. 19 "Yes," I said. "They had beautiful voices but I never heard them singing." "They were singing in my dream. I remember the music but I can't remember the words. They were good songs, too, and there was nothing frightening about them. Perhaps I am an old man," he said. "No, they had beautiful voices," I said. "I liked their songs," he said. "Then I woke up and it was cold. I could see the lanterns on the bridges. Their songs were like the lanterns, burning oil." "I was a little worried about you," Pauline said. "No," he said. "I sat down in the grass and leaned up against a tree and fell asleep and had a long dream about the tigers, and they sang songs but I can't remember the words. Their instruments were nice, too. They looked like the lanterns." Old Chuck's voice slowed down. His body kept relaxing until it seemed as if he had always been in that chair, his arms gently resting on watermelon sugar. 20 More Conversation at iDEATH pauline and I went into the living room and sat down on a couch in the grove of trees by the big pile of rocks. There were lanterns all around us. I took her hand in mine. Her hand had a lot of strength gained through the process of gentleness and that strength made my hand feel secure, but there was a certain excitement, too. She sat very close to me. I could feel the warmth of her body through her dress. In my mind the warmth was the same color as her dress, a kind of golden. "How's the book coming along?" she said. 'Tine," I said. "What's it about?" she said. "Oh, I don't know," I said. "Is it a secret?" she said, smiling. "No," I said. "Is it a romance like some of the books from the Forgotten Works?" "No," I said. "It's not like those books." "I remember when I was a child," she said. "We used to burn those books for fuel. There were so many of them. They burned for a long time, but there aren't that many now." "No, it's just a book," I said. 21 "All right," she said. "I'll get off you, but you can't blame a person for being curious. Nobody has written a book here for so long. Certainly not in my lifetime." Fred came in from washing the dishes. He saw us up in the trees. Lanterns illuminated us. "Hello, up there," he yelled. "Hi," we shouted down. Fred walked up to us, crossing a little river that flowed into the main river at ideath. He came across a small metal bridge that rang out his footsteps. I believe that bridge was found in the Forgotten Works by inBOii. He brought it down here and put it in. "Thanks for doing the dishes," Pauline said. "My pleasure," Fred said. "I'm sorry to bother you people, but I just thought I would come up and remind you about meeting me down at the plank press tomorrow morning. There's something I want to show you down there." "I haven't forgotten," I said. "What's it about?" "I'll show you tomorrow." "Good." "That's all I wanted to say. I know you people have a lot to talk about, so I'll go now. That certainly was a good dinner, Pauline." "Do you still have that thing you showed me today?" I said. "I'd like Pauline to see it." "What thing?" Pauline said. "Something Fred found in the woods today." "No, I don't have it," Fred said. "I left it in my shack. I'll show it to you tomorrow at breakfast." "What is it?" Pauline said. "We don't know what it is," I said. "Yeah, it's a strange-looking thing," Fred said. "It's like one of those things from the Forgotten Works." "Oh," Pauline said. "Well, anyway, I'll show it to you tomorrow at breakfast." 22 "Good," she said. "I look forward to seeing it. Whatever it is. Sounds pretty mysterious." "OK, then," Fred said. "I'll be going now. Just wanted to remind you about seeing me tomorrow at the plank press. It's kind of important." "Don't feel as if you should rush off," I said. "Join us for a while. Sit down." "No, no, no. Thank you, anyway," Fred said. "There's something I have to do up at my shack." "OK," I said. "Good-bye." "Thanks again for doing the dishes," Pauline said. "Think nothing of it." 23 A Lot of Good Nights it was now getting late and Pauline and I went down to say good night to Charley. We could barely see him sitting down on his couch, near the statues that he likes and the place where he builds a small fire to warm himself on cold nights. Bill had joined him and they were sitting there together, talking with great interest about something. Bill was waving his arms in the air to show a part of the conversation. "We came down to say good night," I said, interrupting them. "Oh, hi," Charley said. "Yeah, good night. I mean, how are you people doing?" "OK," I said. "That was a wonderful dinner," Bill said. "Yeah, that was really fine," Charley said. "Good stew." "Thank you." "See you tomorrow," I said. "Are you going to spend the night here at ideath?" Charley said. "No," I said. "I'm going to spend the night with Pauline." "That's good," Charley said. "Good night." "Good night." "Good night." "Good night." 24 Vegetables pauline's shack was about a mile from ideath. She doesn't spend much time there. It's beyond the town. There are about 375 of us here in watermelon sugar. A lot of people live in the town, but some live in shacks at other places, and there are of course we who live at ideath. There were just a few lights on in the town, other than the street lamps. Doc Edwards' light was on. He always has a lot of trouble sleeping at night. The schoolteacher's light was on, too. He was probably working on a lesson for the children. We stopped on the bridge across the river. There were pale green lanterns on the bridge. They were in the shape of human shadows. Pauline and I kissed. Her mouth was moist and cool. Perhaps because of the night. I heard a trout jump in the river, a late jumper. The trout made a narrow doorlike splash. There was a statue nearby. The statue was of a gigantic bean. That's right, a bean. Somebody a long time ago liked vegetables and there are twenty or thirty statues of vegetables scattered here and there in watermelon sugar. There is the statue of an artichoke near the shingle factory and a ten-foot carrot near the trout hatchery at ideath and a head of lettuce near the school and a bunch of onions near the 25 entrance to the Forgotten Works and there are other vegetable statues near people's shacks and a rutabaga by the ball park. A little ways from my shack there is the statue of a potato. I don't particularly care for it, but a long time ago somebody loved vegetables. I once asked Charley if he knew who it was, but he said he didn't have the slightest idea. "Must have really liked vegetables, though," Charley'd said. "Yeah," I'd said. "There's the statue of a potato right near my shack." We continued up the road to Pauline's place. We passed by the Watermelon Works. It was silent and dark. Tomorrow morning it would be filled with light and activity. We could see the aqueduct. It was a long long shadow now. We came to another bridge across a river. There were the usual lanterns on the bridge and statues in the river. There were a dozen or so pale lights coming up from the bottom of the river. They were tombs. We stopped. "The tombs look nice tonight," Pauline said. "Certainly do," I said. "There are mostly children here, aren't there?" "Yes," I said. "They're really beautiful tombs," Pauline said. Moths fluttered above the light that came out of the river from the tombs below. There were five or six moths fluttering over each tomb. Suddenly a big trout jumped out of the water above a tomb and got one of the moths. The other moths scattered and then came back again, and the same trout jumped again and got another moth. He was a smart old trout. The trout did not jump any more and the moths fluttered peacefully above the light coming from the tombs. 26 Margaret Again "How's margaret taking all this?" Pauline said. "I don't know," I said. "Is she hurt or mad or what? Do you know how she feels?" Pauline said. "Has she talked to you about it since you told her? She hasn't talked to me at all. I saw her yesterday near the Watermelon Works. I said hello but she walked past me without saying anything. She seemed terribly upset." "I don't know how she feels," I said. "I thought she'd be at ideath tonight, but she wasn't there," Pauline said. "I don't know why I thought she'd be there. I just had a feeling but I was wrong. Have you seen her?" "No," I said. "I wonder where she's staying," Pauline said. "I think she's staying with her brother." "} feel bad about this. Margaret and I were such good friends. All the years we've spent together at ideath," Pauline said. "We were almost like sisters. I'm sorry that things had to work out this way, but there was nothing we could do about it." "The heart is something else. Nobody knows what's going to happen," I said. "You're right," Pauline said. She stopped and kissed me. Then we crossed over the bridge to her shack. 27 Pauline's Shack pauline's shack is made entirely of watermelon sugar, except the door that is a good-looking grayish-stained pine with a stone doorknob. Even the windows are made of watermelon sugar. A lot of windows here are made of sugar. It's very hard to tell the difference between sugar and glass, the way sugar is used by Carl the windowmaker. It's just a thing that depends on who is doing it. It's a delicate art and Carl has it. Pauline lit a lantern. It smelled fragrant burning with water- melontrout oil. We have a way here also of mixing watermelon and trout to make a lovely oil for our lanterns. We use it for all our lighting purposes. It has a gentle fragrance to it, and makes a good light. Pauline's shack is very simple as all our shacks are simple. Everything was in its proper place. Pauline uses the shack just to get away from ideath for a few hours or a night if she feels like it. All of us who stay at ideath have shacks to visit whenever we feel like it. I spend more time at my shack than anybody else. I usually just sleep one night a week at ideath. I of course take most of my meals there. We who do not have regular names spend a lot of time by ourselves. It suits us. 28 "Well, here we are," Pauline said. She looked beautiful in the light of the lantern. Her eyes sparkled. "Please come here," I said. She came over to me and I kissed her mouth and then I touched her breasts. They felt so smooth and firm. I put my hand down the front of her dress. "That feels good," she said. "Let's try some more," I said. "That would be good," she said. We went over and lay upon her bed. I took her dress off. She had nothing on underneath. We did that for a while. Then I got up and took off my overalls and lay back down beside her. 29 A Love, a Wind we made a long and slow love. A wind came up and the windows trembled slightly, the sugar set fragilely ajar by the wind. I liked Pauline's body and she said that she liked mine, too, and we couldn't think of anything to say. The wind suddenly stopped and Pauline said, "What's that?" "It's the wind." 30 The Tigers Again after making love we talked about the tigers. It was Pauline who started it. She was lying warmly beside me, and she wanted to talk about the tigers. She said that Old Chuck's dream got her thinking about them. "I wonder why they could speak our language," she said. "No one knows," I said. "But they could speak it. Charley says maybe we were tigers a long time ago and changed but they didn't. I don't know. It's an interesting idea, though." "I never heard their voices," Pauline said. "I was just a child and there were only a few tigers left, old ones, and they harely came out of the hills. They were too old to be dangerous, and they were hunted all the time. "I was six years old when they killed the last one. I remember the hunters bringing it to ideath. There were hundreds of people with them. The hunters said they had killed it up in the hills that day, and it was the last tiger. "They brought the tiger to ideath and everybody came with them. They covered it with wood and soaked the wood down with watermelontrout oil. Gallons and gallons of it. I remember people threw flowers on the pile and stood around crying because it was the last tiger. "Charley took a match and lit the fire. It burned with a great 31 orange glow for hours and hours, and black smoke poured up into the air. "It burned until there was nothing left but ashes, and then the men began right then and there building the trout hatchery at ideath, right over the spot where the tiger had been burned. It's hard to think of that now when you're down there dancing. "I guess you remember all this," Pauline said. "You were there, too. You were standing beside Charley." "That's right," I said. "They had beautiful voices." "I never heard them" she said. "Perhaps that was for the best," I said. "Maybe you're right," she said. "Tigers," and was soon fast asleep in my arms. Her sleep tried to become my arm, and then my body, but I wouldn't let it because I was suddenly very restless. I got up and put on my overalls and went for one of the long walks I take at night. 32 Arithmetic the night was cool and the stars were red. I walked down by the Watermelon Works. That's where we process the watermelons into sugar. We take the juice from the watermelons and cook it down until there's nothing left but sugar, and then we work it into the shape of this thing that we have: our lives. I sat down on a couch by the river. Pauline had gotten me thinking about the tigers. I sat there and thought about them, how they killed and ate my parents. We lived together in a shack by the river. My father raised watermelons and my mother baked bread. I was going to school. I was nine years old and having trouble with arithmetic. One morning the tigers came in while we were eating breakfast and before my father could grab a weapon they killed him and they killed my mother. My parents didn't even have time to say anything before they were dead. I was still holding the spoon from the mush I was eating. "Don't be afraid," one of the tigers said. "We're not going to hurt you. We don't hurt children, just sit there where you are and we'll tell you a story." One of the tigers started eating my mother. He bit her arm off and started chewing on it. "What kind of story would you like to hear? I know a good story about a rabbit." 33 "I don't want to hear a story," I said. "OK," the tiger said, and he took a bite out of my father. I sat there for a long time with the spoon in my hand, and then I put it down. "Those were my folks," I said, finally. "We're sorry," one of the tigers said. "We really are." "Yeah," the other tiger said. "We wouldn't do this if we didn't have to, if we weren't absolutely forced to. But this is the only way we can keep alive." "We're just like you," the other tiger said. "We speak the same language you do. We think the same thoughts, but we're tigers." "You could help me with my arithmetic," I said. "What's that?" one of the tigers said. "My arithmetic." "Oh, your arithmetic." "Yeah." "What do you want to know?" one of the tigers said. "What's nine times nine?" "Eighty-one," a tiger said. "What's eight times eight?" "Fifty-six," a tiger said. I asked them half a dozen other questions: six times six, seven times four, etc. I was having a lot of trouble with arithmetic. Finally the tigers got bored with my questions and told me to go away. "OK," I said. "I'll go outside." "Don't go too far," one of the tigers said. "We don't want anyone to come up here and kill us." "OK." They both went back to eating my parents. I went outside and sat down by the river. "I'm an orphan," I said. I could see a trout in the river. He swam directly at me and then he stopped right where the river ends and the land begins. He stared at me. 34 "What do you know about anything?" I said to the trout. That was before I went to live at ideath. After about an hour or so the tigers came outside and stretched and yawned. "It's a nice day," one of the tigers said. "Yeah," the other tiger said. "Beautiful." "We're awfully sorry we had to kill your parents and eat them. Please try to understand. We tigers are not evil. This is just a thing we have to do." "All right," I said. "And thanks for helping me with my arithmetic." "Think nothing of it." The tigers left. I went over to ideath and told Charley that the tigers had eaten my parents. "What a shame," he said. "The tigers are so nice. Why do they have to go and do things like that?" I said. "They can't help themselves," Charley said. "I like the tigers, too. I've had a lot of good conversations with them. They're very nice and have a good way of stating things, but we're going to have to get rid of them. Soon." "One of them helped me with my arithmetic." "They're very helpful," Charley said. "But they're dangerous. What are you going to do now?" "I don't know," I said. "How would you like to stay here at ideath?" Charley said. "That sounds good," I said. "Fine. Then it's settled," Charley said. That night I went back to the shack and set fire to it. I didn't take anything with me and went to live at ideath. That was twenty years ago, though it seems like it was only yesterday: What's eight times eight? 35 She Was finally I stopped thinking about the tigers and started back to Pauline's shack. I would think about the tigers another day There would be many. I wanted to stay the night with Pauline. I knew that she would be beautiful in her sleep, waiting for me to return. She was. 36 A Lamb at False Dawn pauline began talking in her sleep at false dawn from under the watermelon covers. She told a little story about a lamb going for a walk. "The lamb sat down in the flowers," she said. "The lamb was all right," and that was the end of the story. Pauline often talks in her sleep. Last week she sang a little song. I forget how it went. I put my hand on her breast. She stirred in her sleep. I took my hand off her breast and she was quiet again. She felt very good in bed. There was a nice sleepy smell coming from her body. Perhaps that is where the lamb sat down. 37 The Watermelon Sun I woke up before Pauline and put on my overalls. A crack of gray sun shone through the window and lay quietly on the floor. I went over and put my foot in it, and then my foot was gray. I looked out the window and across the fields and piney woods and the town to the Forgotten Works. Everything was touched with gray: Cattle grazing in the fields and the roofs of the shacks and the big Piles in the Forgotten Works all looked like dust. The very air itself was gray. We have an interesting thing with the sun here. It shines a different color every day. No one knows why this is, not even Charley. We grow the watermelons in different colors the best we can. This is how we do it: Seeds gathered from a gray watermelon picked on a gray day and then planted on a gray day will make more gray watermelons. It is really very simple. The colors of the days and the watermelons go like this-- Monday: red watermelons. Tuesday: golden watermelons. Wednesday: gray watermelons. Thursday: black, soundless wateimelons. Friday: white watermelons. 38 Saturday: blue watermelons. Sunday: brown watermelons. Today would be a day of gray watermelons. I like best tomorrow: the black, soundless watermelon days. When you cut them they make no noise, and taste very sweet. They are very good for making things that have no sound. I remember there was a man who used to make clocks from the black, soundless watermelons and his clocks were silent. The man made six or seven of these clocks and then he died. There is one of the clocks hanging over his grave. It is hanging from the branches of an apple tree and sways in the winds that go up and down the river. It of course does not keep time any more. Pauline woke up while I was putting my shoes on. "Hello," she said, rubbing her eyes. "You're up. I wonder what time it is." "It's about six." "I have to cook breakfast this morning at ideath," she said. "Come over here and give me a kiss and then tell me what you would like for breakfast." 39 Hands we walked back to ideath, holding hands. Hands are very nice things, especially after they have travelled back from making love. 40 Margaret Again, Again I sat in the kitchen at ideath, watching Pauline make the batter for hot cakes, my favorite food. She put a lot of flour and eggs and good things into a great blue bowl and stirred the batter with a big wooden spoon, almost too large for her hand. She was wearing a real nice dress and her hair was combed on top of her head and I had stopped and picked some flowers for her hair when we walked down the road. They were bluebells. "I wonder if Margaret will be here today," she said. "I'll be glad when we're talking again." "Don't worry about it," I said. "Everything will be all right." "It's just--well, Margaret and I have been such good friends. I'd always liked you before, but I never thought we'd ever be anything but friends. "You and Margaret were so close for years. I just hope everything works out, and Margaret finds someone new and will be my friend again." "Don't worry." Fred came into the kitchen just to say, "Ummmm--hot cakes," and then left. 41 Strawberries charley must have eaten a dozen hot cakes himself. I have never seen him eat so many hot cakes, and Fred ate a few more than Charley. It was quite a sight. There was also a big platter of bacon and lots of fresh milk and a big pot of strong coffee, and there was a bowl of fresh strawberries, too. A girl came by from the town and left them off just before breakfast. She was a gentle girl. Pauline said, "Thank you, and what a lovely dress you have on this morning. Did you make it yourself? You must have because it's so pretty." "Oh, thank you," the girl said, blushing. "I just wanted to bring some strawberries to ideath for breakfast, so I got up very early and gathered them down by the river." Pauline ate one of the berries and gave one of them to me "They are such fine berries," Pauline said. "You must know a good place to get them, and you must show me where that place "It's right near that statue of a rutabaga by the ball park, just down from where that funny green bridge is," the girl said She was about fourteen years old and very pleased that her 42 strawberries were a big hit at ideath. All of the strawberries were eaten at breakfast, and again as for the hot cakes: "These are really wonderful hot cakes," Charley said. "Would you like some more?" Pauline said. "Maybe another one if there is any more batter." "There's plenty," Pauline said. "How about you, Fred?" "Well, maybe just one more." 43 The Schoolteacher after breakfast I kissed Pauline while she was washing the dishes and went with Fred down to the Watermelon Works to see something he wanted to show me about the plank press. We took a long leisurely stroll down there, through the morning of a gray sun. It looked like it might rain but of course it would not. The first rain of the year would not start until the 12th day of October. "Margaret wasn't there this morning," Fred said. "No, she wasn't," I said. We stopped and talked to the schoolteacher who was taking his students for a walk in the woods. While we talked to him all the children sat down in the grass nearby, and were kind of gathered together like a ring of mushrooms or daisies. "Well, how's the book coming?" the schoolteacher said. "All right," I said. "I'll be very curious to see it," the schoolteacher said. "You always had a way with words. I still remember that essay you wrote on weather when you were in the sixth grade. That was quite something. "Your description of the winter clouds was very accurate and quite moving at the same time and contained a certain amount of poetic content. Yes, I am quite interested in reading your 44 book. Will you give any hints on what it is about?" Fred meanwhile looked very bored. He went and sat down with the children. He started talking to a boy about something. "Have you expanded your essay on weather or is the book about something else?" The boy was very interested in what Fred was saying. A couple of other kids moved closer. "Oh, it's just coming along," I said. "It's pretty hard to talk about. But you'll be one of the first I'll show it to when it's done." "I've always had faith in you as a writer," the schoolteacher said. "For a long time I thought about writing a book myself, but teaching absorbs just too much of my time." Fred took something out of his pocket. He showed it to the boy. He looked at it and passed it on to the other children. "Yes, I thought that I would write a book about teaching, but so far I've been too busy teaching to write. But it is very inspiring to me to have one of my former star pupils carry the glorious banner for what I myself have been too busy to do. Good luck." "Thank you." Fred put the thing back in his pocket and the schoolteacher got all of his students back on their feet, and off they went to the woods. He was talking to them about something very important. I could tell because he pointed back at me, and then he pointed at a cloud that was drifting low overhead. 45 Under the Plank Press As we neared the Watermelon Works the air was full of the sweet smell of the sugar being boiled in the vats. There were great layers and strips and shapes of sugar hardening out in the sun: red sugar, golden sugar, gray sugar, black, soundless sugar, white sugar, blue sugar, brown sugar. "The sugar sure looks good," Fred said. "Yeah." I waved at Ed and Mike, whose job it is to keep the birds off the sugar. They waved back, and then one of them began chasing after a bird. There are about a dozen people who work at the Watermelon Works, and we went inside. There were great fires going under the two vats, and Peter was feeding wood into them. He looked hot and sweaty, but that was his natural condition. "How's the sugar coming?" I said. "Fine," he said. "Lot of sugar. How are things at ideath?" "Good," I said. "What's this about you and Pauline?" "Just gossip," I said. I like Pete. We've been friends for years. When I was a child I used to come down to the Watermelon Works and help him feed the fires. 46 "I'll bet Margaret's mad," he said. "} hear she's really pining for you. That's what her brother says. She's just pining away." "} don't know about that," I said. "What are you down here for?" he said. "I just came down here to chuck a piece of wood in the fire," I said. I reached over and picked up a large pine knot and put it in the fire under a vat. "Just like old times," he said. The foreman came out of his office and joined us. He looked kind of tired. "Hi, Edgar," I said. "Hello," he said. "How are you? Good morning, Fred." "Good morning, boss." "What brings you down here?" Edgar said. "Fred wants to show me something." "What's that, Fred?" Edgar said. "It's a private thing, boss." "Oh. Well, show away, then." "Will do, boss." "It's always good to see you down here," Edgar said to me. "You look kind of tired," I said. "Yeah, I stayed up late last night." "Well, get some sleep tonight," I said. "That's what I'm planning on. As soon as I get off work I'm going straight home to bed. Don't even think I'll eat any dinner, just grab a snack." "Sleep's good for you," Fred said. "I guess I'd better get back to the office," Edgar said. "I've got some paper work to do. See you later." "Yeah, good-bye, Edgar." The foreman went back to his office, and I went with Fred to the plank press. That's where we make watermelon planks. Today they were making golden planks. Fred is the straw boss and the rest of his crew was already there, turning out planks. 47 "Good morning," the crew said. "Good morning," Fred said. "Let's stop this thing here for a minute." One of the crew turned off the switch and Fred had me come over very close and get down on my hands and knees and crawl under the press until we came to a very dark place and then he lit a match and showed me a bat hanging upside down from a housing. "What do you think of that?" Fred said. "Yeah," I said, staring at the bat. "I found him there a couple of days ago. Doesn't that beat everything?" he said. "It's got a head start," I said. 48 Until Lunch after having admired Fred's bat and crawled out from underneath the plank press, I told him that I had to go up to my shack and do some work: plant some flowers and things. "Are you going to have lunch at iDEATH?" he said. "No, I think I'll just have a snack downtown at the cafe later on. Why don't you join me, Fred?" "OK," he said. "I think they're serving frankfurters and sauerkraut today." "That was yesterday," one of his crew volunteered. "You're right," Fred said. "Today's meat loaf. How does that sound?" "All right," I said. "I'll see you for lunch, then. About twelve." I left Fred supervising the plank press with big golden planks of watermelon sugar coming down the chain. The Watermelon Works was bubbling and drying away, sweet and gentle in the warm gray sun. And Ed and Mike were chasing after birds. Mike was running a robin off. 49 The Tombs on my way to the shack, I decided to go down to the river where they were putting in a new tomb and look at the trout that always gather out of a great curiosity when the tombs are put in. I passed through the town. It was kind of quiet with just a few people on the streets. I saw Doc Edwards going somewhere carrying his bag, and I waved at him. He waved back and made a motion to show that he was on a very important errand. Somebody was probably sick in the town. I waved him on. There were a couple of old people sitting in rocking chairs on the front porch of the hotel. One of them was rocking and the other one was asleep. The one that was asleep had a newspaper in his lap. I could smell bread baking in the bakery and there were two horses tied up in front of the general store. I recognized one of the horses as being from ideath. I walked out of the town and passed by some trees that were at the edge of a little watermelon patch. The trees had moss hanging from them. A squirrel ran up into the branches of a tree. His tail was missing. I wondered what had happened to his tail. I guess he lost it someplace. 50 I sat down on a couch by the river. There was a statue of grass beside the couch. The blades were made from copper and had been turned to their natural color by the rain weight of years. There were four or five guys putting in the tomb. They were the Tomb Crew. The tomb was being put into the bottom of the river. That's how we bury our dead here. Of course we used a lot less tombs when the tigers were in bloom. But now we bury them all in glass coffins at the bottoms of rivers and put foxfire in the tombs, so they glow at night and we can appreciate what comes next. I saw a bunch of trout gathered together to watch the tomb being put in. They were nice-looking rainbow trout. There were perhaps a hundred of them in a very small space in the river. The trout have a great curiosity about this activity, and many of them gather to watch. The Tomb Crew had sunk the Shaft into the river and the pump was going away. They were doing the glass inlay work now. Soon the tomb would be complete and the door would be opened when it was needed and someone would go inside to stay there for the ages. 51 The Grand Old Trout I saw a trout that I have known for a long time watching the tomb being put in. It was The Grand Old Trout, raised as a fingerling in the trout hatchery at ideath. I knew this because he had the little ideath bell fastened to his jaw. He is many years old and weighs many pounds and moves slowly with wisdom. The Grand Old Trout usually spends all of its time upstream by the Statue of Mirrors. I had spent many hours in the past watching this trout in the deep pool there. I guess he had been curious about this particular tomb and had come down to watch it being put in. I wondered about this because The Grand Old Trout usually shows very little interest in watching the tombs being put in I guess because he has seen so many before. I remember once they were putting in a tomb just a little ways down from the Statue of Mirrors and he didn't move an inch in all the days that it took because it was such a hard tomb to put in. The tomb collapsed just before completion. Charley came down and shook his head sadly, and the tomb had to be done all over again. But now the trout was watching very intently this tomb being 52 put in. He was hovering just a few inches above the bottom and ten feet away from the Shaft. I went down and crouched by the river. The trout were not scared at all by the closeness of my appearance. The Grand Old Trout looked over at me. I believe he recognized me, for he stared at me for a couple of minutes, and then he turned back to watching the tomb being put in, the final inlay work being done. I stayed there for a little while by the river and when I left to go to my shack. The Grand Old Trout turned and stared at me. He was still staring at me when I was gone from sight, I thought. 53 Book Two: inBOIL Nine Things it was good to be back at my shack, but there was a note on the door from Margaret. I read the note and it did not please me and I threw it away, so not even time could find it. I sat down at my table and looked out the window, down to iDEATH. I had a few things to do with pen and ink and did them rapidly and without mistake, and put them away written in watermelonseed ink upon these sheets of sweet smelling wood made by Bill down at the shingle factory. Then I thought that I would plant some flowers out by the potato statue, a bunch of them in a circle around that seven-foot potato would look nice. I went and got some seeds from the chest that I keep my things in and noticed that everything was ajar, and so before planting the seeds, I put everything back in order. I have nine things, more or less: a child's ball (I can't remember which child), a present given me nine years ago by Fred, my essay on weather, some numbers (1-24), an extra pair of overalls, a piece of blue metal, something from the Forgotten Works, a lock of hair that needs washing. I kept the seeds out because I was going to put them in the ground around the potato. I have a few other things that I keep in my room at ideath. I have a nice room there off toward the trout hatchery. 57 I went outside and planted the seeds around the potato and wondered again who liked vegetables so much, and where were they buried, under what river or had a tiger eaten them a long time ago when the tiger's beautiful voice had said, "I like your statues very much, especially that rutabaga by the ball park, but alas. . ." 58 Margaret Again, Again, Again I spent a half an hour or so pacing back and forth on the bridge, but I did not once find that board that Margaret always steps on, that board she could not miss if all the bridges in the world were put together, formed into one single bridge, she'd step on that board. 59 A Nap suddenly I felt very tired and decided to take a nap before lunch and went into the shack and lay down in my bed. I looked up at the ceiling, at the beams of watermelon sugar. I stared at the grain and was soon fast asleep. I had a couple of small dreams. One of them was about a moth. The moth was balanced on an apple. Then I had a long dream, which was again the history of inBoiL and that gang of his and the terrible things that happened just a few short months ago. 60 Whiskey InaoiL and that gang of his lived in a little bunch of lousy shacks with leaky roofs near the Forgotten Works. They lived there until they were dead. I think there were about twenty of them. All men, like inBoiL, that were no good. First there was just inaoiL who lived there. He got in a big fight one night with Charley and told him to go to hell and said he would sooner live by the Forgotten Works than in ideath. "To hell with ideath," he said, and went and built himself a lousy shack by the Forgotten Works. He spent his time digging around in there and making whiskey from things. Then a couple of other men went and joined up with him and from time to time, every once in a while, a new man would join them. You could always tell who they would be. Before they joined insoiL's gang, they would always be unhappy and nervous and shifty or have "light fingers" and talk a lot about things tha; good people did not understand nor wanted to. They would grow more and more nervous and no account and then finally you would hear about them having joined inBoil's gang and now they were working with him in the Forgotten Works, and being paid in whiskey that insoiL made from forgotten things. 61 Whiskey Again Ineoii. was about fifty years old, I guess, and was born and raised at ideath. I remember sitting upon his knee as a child and having him tell me stories. He knew some pretty good ones, too . . . and Margaret was there. Then he turned bad. It happened over a couple of years. He kept getting mad at things that were of no importance and going off by himself to the trout hatchery at ideath. He began spending a lot of time at the Forgotten Works, and Charley would ask him what he was doing and inBOiL would say, "Oh, nothing. Just off by myself." "What kind of things do you find when you're digging down there?" "Oh, nothing," innoiL lied. He became very removed from people and then his speech would be strange, slurred and his movements became jerky and his temper bad, and he spent a lot of time at night in the trout hatchery and sometimes he would laugh out loud and you could hear this enormous laugh that had now become his, echoing through the rooms and halls, and into the very changing of ideath: the indescribable way it changes that we like so much, that suits us. 62 The Big Fight the big fight between inBOiL and Charley occurred at dinner one night. Fred was passing some mashed potatoes to me when it happened. The nght had been building up for weeks. inBOii/s laughter had grown louder and louder until it was almost impossible to sleep at night. inBOiL was drunk all the time, and he would listen to no one about anything, not even Charley. He wouldn't even lis
Hesse - Klingsor's Last Summer From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia Jump to: navigation , search… - December 1, 2008
The Crock of Gold by James Stephens - The Crock of Gold by James Stephens [b. 1882 d. 1950] London, Macmillan and Co., limited… - June 10, 2008
See all articles...
Visible by: Everyone (public).
All rights reserved