Dark sky. Purple
clouds that are full pregnant with rain but just no labour pains. No
externalisation of anything anywhere. The air like filthy drapes of
wet linen fingering my face. Stale puffs of smoke fixed to the ends
of thin chimneys hiding themselves behind my eyelashes.
"Absolutely no dogs allowed until further notice."
Why dont they ever write something funny on these signs? Im
on my way into the Gloverstone Municipal Park. Not exactly the best
place to set one foot in front of the other. But its all right.
Every mud has its green blade of grass. Im not the only one walking
through the later then Late Victorian Garden. Concrete grass embroideries.
They had to save somewhere. Or am I the only one walking? Cant
really see anybody else. Theres five or so people with their Mitshubishi
van, working, of course. But they dont really count. Theyve
got some crazy dress on. Orange security clothing. High visibility stripes
all over their bodies. Things in front of their mouths. Why does everything
modern always look so morbid? Why does everybody look so modern? Who
is everybody? How many more stupid questions will it take until I smash
my fist into my brain to help it make sense? Okay. One more.
What is sense?
"If this bench here were a couch, then you would be my television."
At least that was what this guy says to me. Hes sitting on his
"couch" like a fat oyster out of water. His skin dried up
and hiding itself in its own creases. His limbs folded like a squatting
ant. His head like some phallic fungus, his hair the pileus ready to
explode into a single nauseating mass of sperm. He isnt really
the kind to invite anybody to do anything except to gross out and keep
I sit down beside him. Kind of liking the way he demonstrates his total
disgust of the world and disgust the world has for him. He doesnt
only look thrown up, he looks redigested and discarded. Like everybody
had wanted his turn to decline him. Like he wanted to hear it from every
single soul that he was a dismay, appalling, disillusioning, stripping.
Not that he was ever asking for anything. He is just giving all the
"You like rats?" We are talking. Making the start of it. I
think rats are ugly little naked no-goods and tell him so. And theres
him saying something positive about the vermins, hes complaining
about people like me, catapulting them poor creatures into some devilish
unhygienic realm. After a moment we arent really talking about
just rats anymore, although we were both supposing. Talking about rodents.
It does make it easier to take words like extermination and extirpation
into my mouth. Its so wonderfully simplistic.
Then he has this piece of cheese in his hand. Holds it right up to my
nose. His hand stinks, his fingernails all yellow, brittle, soiled.
Ive seen cheese before. Thank you. Dont really have to look
at it like that. Thats what I think to myself. No matter what
the guy does, Im not going to eat it. No, Im not. Not even
for money. Not if he promises me something. Not even if he tells me
his name. He doesnt even offer the piece of cheese to me.
He has a little flask in his hand. Puts a few drops of something on
the cheese. The merging smile on his face revealing a whole museum of
dental pathologies. A whole bouquet of decay. He puts the piece of cheese
on his one knee, like its something valuable. Carefully balanced.
Then he tinkers the lid back on the tiny brown glass flask. Stores it
in some invisible part of his coat. Turns his dark smile to me and suddenly
jerks with his knees. The cheese falls some two feet in front of his
left foot. About three feet from my right.
"You just look." Then hes silent and seems to find anything
else more interesting. So I wait. Look at the piece of cheese. Its
very quiet. Birds rustling in the shrubs. Bits of trash making their
paper or plastic noises with the wind. Something pushing itself through
the corner of my left eye. Nothing there, as I turn my head to look.
Its still. Seems like all the birds have gone away and know what's
coming. Like the trees hold their breath and try hard not to cause a
scene. Another shadow in my eyes corner to the right.
A rat. Advancing like its moving itself on Hiltons red carpet.
Like its stealing its way back out again after spending
a night under the kitchen table there and drinking all the drops of
alcoholic food. Its coming from my side. Im not sure whether
rats know humans as such or just the big moving creatures. Im
not moving. Im just looking and hoping that it doesnt...
it does. I dont scream, I dont move. It puts its nose
at my shoe. Runs over it to the next one. I can feel the breath of wind
between the end of my sock and my pant. Keeps itself in the shadow of
the foot to the right of mine. And dives for the cheese, grabs it, runs
a yard, stops and takes a gulp.
Its only seconds. Something starts moving inside of the rats
body. Convulsing. Like something from inside wants to put itself over
the rats outside. Like theres a small ball rolling inside
its stomach, back and forth, from the teeth to tail. Then the breathing
comes up. I can actually hear the small lungs trying to force something
in and out. In and out. It seems to get harder and harder for the rat
to lift its rib cage. Like a musical clock playing its last
tune and fading away. Then seizures grab the legs, the neck. The back
forms arcs and tufts. Knotting itself into a single sheet to cover itself.
The birds dont cry. The trees are still. Like everything around
is simply watching silently in awe.
How sick can a guy get? I try to spare my eyes from looking at him again.
I get up from the bench, slowly. I dont want to challenge the
maniac next to me. Not with anything. I move like Im an old ship,
cutting the ropes. Like I dont want to see the loved one Im
leaving behind. The dead something that used to be a rat like the beacon
I can look at instead. Fixing my attention until Im away far enough
to have it all blended into one immaculate horizon.
I pass the orange men again. Their green gloves shine in the moist air.
Their masks gives them something official. They wave at me as I pass.
I wave back. They seem so far away. Maybe ten yards. What a haze has
put itself up around me. The grey furry ball which is dead now still
as close as the water Im sailing over. The cut ropes still holding
me back, cause they are heavy, soaked through and hanging into the waves
I sleep with the rat running through my dreamy mind. On one of those
bogie wheels. Running to my feet and nose. A leaden anchor tied to my
left lung and my right one helping out to pull the left one free. My
legs throwing themselves around me. The nice new red jacket I get as
a present, and me standing before the mirror admiring until everything
gets sharp and then I see the coat is stitched out of the insides of
my gut. Admiring myself. Cant help feeling big. Cant help
that something beautiful is happening to me.
Next day Im in the park again. Like something pulled me there.
Maybe the heavy ropes I should have heaved on board? The sign with the
dogs not allowed to go in is still there. Its still not really
funny. But then who wants to laugh? The orange plastic men with their
masks and goggles and gloves still working and waving. I wave back.
I dont want to see him. He wouldnt come back to the place
a second time after what he did? Would he? I even sent a letter to the
local security department to look out for the guy. I think the public
has to be informed. I think its everybodys right to know
whats going on.
The clouds are shifting from blue to grey again today. It gets really
dark all of the sudden, and then light comes to shine once more. Still
just the solitude of a couple of trees handing their leaves around.
Still its just the absence of the birds that remind me that there
is any living creature of such kind. Still its just the mud below
my feet that make me hope for some green. Clouds like an unbreakable
net hovering above. I remember the yellow of the sun. But what do I
care? The sun might as well be purple just as long as it shines. The
sun isnt shining so it might as well be black.
I dont see him. Not on the bench, not on the grass, not in the
shrubs. Just the orange working men waving. I wave back. Friendly ones,
First its one. Then two. The rats again. Coming out on the walk.
Jerking their tiny bellies in their tummy dance. Shaking their legs
in choreographed baldness. Their lungs hopping to their own wheezy march.
Heels together, click, click, click. Hearts beat faster, tick, tick,
tick. Chasing themselves, tock, tock, tock. Can you guess who, knock,
Theres hundreds of them. Coming from the shrubs, the trees, the
benches. Like they all want to be part of the crowd. Like they are in
it just for this. Colliding bodies. Dying stumble over dead ones. Dying
ones are pushed by the dancing. The dancing squashed by the running.
The running traced by the feasting. The feasting haunted by their feasted
I dont believe that any one could do something like this. Its
thousands. Ever more bodies forming a brighter shade of grey as they
become the soft velvet foil seaming my feet. I cant believe that
anyone could do this. Bones cracking under my feet. Mounding themselves.
Better to shove them out of the way then to loose my step in their mass.
Two waves form before my skating feet. Two waves of grey little bodies.
Two waves loosing themselves somewhere behind me. Like Im a ship
and there are two ropes I forgot to pull in. Ive got to pull them
in. And then there are the friendly orange men waving behind me. Waving
furiously. Until they become part of the one immaculate horizon.
© Aaron Bone,
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