******WARNING!!!******

This story contains harsh language. Please do not read this story if this offends you.


Other sections from Pignon have been published in fiction anthologies. You can find me at: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ats-query/6268-6910861-221421,
or search under author: Tindall, Kenneth.


ESTRANGEMENTS

by Kenneth Tindall


THE GIRL SAT ON THE WINDOW SEAT brushing her long red hair. The forenoon sun shone between scudding towers of cumulus so that she appeared to be the center of an event of light and shadow. As she brushed her hair she watched the moving alternation of chartreuse and gray light on the row of beach stones her father had mounted on the white enamel paneling. She was wearing a forest green jersey and her flannel spencer, her legs stretched out on the baize cushion with her freckled ankles crossed in a favorite man of distinction attitude. Suddenly she put the hairbrush on the windowsill and knelt up to look at one of the stones. It was one she had fished out of her father's deep soldier pockets one time when he came home from maneuvres. She remembered how he laughed when she was frisking him. It was a horn of flint, white as the chalk bed which once enveloped it. She thought it looked like the way newborn infants lie when they are sleeping and the shifting green light from the garden hightened the amniotic effect. The stone next to it was a smooth oblong of translucent rose quartz from a beach on one of the Funen Isles. It was as though she heard his voice. I wonder what the birds are saying to each other outside. Surely they enjoy freedom of expression. She made a soft animal sound and hopped down off the window seat and put on her sandals. She had just buckled them when she heard her mother call. But Pignon was already through the French doors.

The blackbird pealed in surprise at her. She had a place where she could see everything. She sat perfectly still on the grass leaning back on her arms and her legs straight out in front of her. Yesterday the fox had come for the second time. The first time he came she had dreamed about him. He stuck his snoot in a rose and sneezed.

The Dravidian woman was hanging out the wash.

Up there were the friendly clouds. What were they saying to each other? The girl held her breath and listened. A great hushed chord. She hummed with it, her voice with theirs.

The dazzling piles of gray and white in the bottomless blue processioned like amiable pagodas over the garden. Often she would deliberately think their sound, and later when she knew how to say it in words and said "The soft sibilance of the clouds moving" it would be beautiful and powerful but not the immediacy and nudeness of thinking the sound. Maybe it was the distance from the event the words were that made forming them and saying them feel powerful. But wasn't it the being the thing thought while still being oneself? She could be anything and everything. She was the clouds moving and the treetops moving in the wind and the veins in the trees.

The mechanism of words was like her father's toy weathervane on top of the trellis gate, whose cock was the sails of a little white sloop pitching in the jigsawed waves. The boat was driven by a fiddlestick attached to the windmill on the end always pointing into the wind. The windmill had eight wooden blades, and when it was a spinning blur it could be a disc-shaped white cloud the sloop was sailing into. He had whittled the fiddlestick out of a seasoned hazel wand and sandpapered it until it was as white and smooth as her own skin. Then he painted it two times with red enamel. Instead of being concealed between the two jigsawed waves it oscillated along one side of them, visible and terrific. The stupendous clouds panoplied in the blue and the whirling sailing mechanism was dazzling in the sunshine. She heard her mother call, but Pignon hid in the sleeve of the trees.

At the age of six Pignon possessed the Anthroposophical "continuity of consciousness." Her waking was but another sleeping and her recollecting the dreams of the night was but a remembrance of the other country that is the past. She knew no difference between her states and levels of consciousness. The one fell away into the other like a vessel casting off and moving into the stream, and an event in one would bring about an occurence in the other. Her reveries were deep visits to another home and she led her life both there and here. She was never burdened with the urgency to grow up which initiated most children away from the equivalency of time and consciousness from whence they came, and so the affairs of her waking and dreaming hours were immaculate, without symbols, like the unfolding of nature.

Her mother had gone into town.

There were her mother's hopscotch lagers. They had always been there on the round occasional table in back of the sofa. Nothing else was ever placed on the table except a vase with flowers. Once she took the hopscotch lagers down and would have played with them but her mother came and took them away from her and told her she wasn't to touch them. Pignon had her own hopscotch lagers she could play with. There was one in the pocket of her spencer. She took it out and looked at it. It had never been used for hopscotch. Its bottom glistened flawlessly like a puddle on a floor and she liked to hold it in such a way that the world was reflected in it. It was deep blue like a puddle of ink, and when she held the hopscotch lager to her eye she could see the world cobalt through it. She breathed on the bottom and polished it on the the sofa back and held it again so she could see the French doors reflected in it and the vase of flowers on the occasional table. Then she turned it and looked at the top, felt the raised image with her fingertips. There was a chimneysweep with his ladder and a ballerina. Suddenly she sat down on the sofa and gazed at the cold fireplace.

Just as suddenly she hopped up and knelt in the deep cushions, pressed against the sofa back, and replaced her hopscotch lager in the pocket of her spencer. She contemplated her mother's. The collection was an assembly of familiar personalities on the gleaming tabletop which was always polished by her mother personally and never by the Dravidian woman. One of the lagers had a goat's head on it. Another had a scales. There was one with two fish. One had a soldier with one leg. One had a Christmas tree. She had one just like it but red. They were the traditional Danish hopscotch lagers, thick and heavy, about as big around as the bottom of a beer bottle and made of beautiful colored glass. Their bottoms got scratched and rough and they became chipped from being used on sidewalks and driveways and patches of hard asphalt in parking lots where girls slid and tossed them.

There were some that her mother had gotten from her mother. The designs on them were different, and they were very old and chipped and the glass was colored with lighter hues. One of them had a Christmas tree on it. It was a light green. Then there was a clear glass one, white from use. It had a seven-pointed star. She counted the points, standing on the sofa and holding her breath, not touching the hopscotch lager. Then there was the one with the simplest design of all, but it was the most interesting. Pale blue-green, the color she had seen once in a fleeting look into the edge of a huge sheet of plate glass on a glazier's truck. It was a color she had seen another time, she knew. Once when looking up out of a car window. She had recognized it then, looking up out of the car window, even then remembering the hopscotch lager which had belonged to her mother's mother. The most interesting thing of all, however, was what it was called. She could see what the others were, but she had had to ask her mother what this one was and her mother had told her. Its top simply had a raised screen pattern. It was called the hamburger.

The bright parents and the dark parents and the constancy of Pignon. Perhaps she had no use for them, the former laughing and busy with her. She expressed it to her doll: They were sharing the same pocket. Her dark parents, on the other hand, never let her into theirs. Maybe they were doling her something out of it, at night a glimpse of their friends in her bedroom door like a joke she didn't understand. The other light. Another milk, a different pantry and furtive, as though the bright parents might burst in on them or reproach them from her dreams.

Of course there was something else on the shiny round occasional tabletop. She never thought of it as being something else on the table. It had always been there. Not only that, it could have been a vase with flowers just as it could have been a hopscotch lager. She never thought of it as being anything but one of those things. It was a glass and there was something in it. It was something else, even though it might have been standing there disguised as two other things at the same time and her mother had never said she wasn't to touch it. Laughing softly, she picked it up and ran barefooted with it across the living room and over to the window seat. Carefully, she bottom-upped the glass, emptying its contents in a compact heap on the green baize cushion. They were small, worn pasteboard tabs, each one with a letter of the alphabet written on it in ink. The bottom of the glass was thick and heavy and had a concave, cut glass screen pattern. It was a hamburger too.

The print of the dragoon captain fading in the bay window. Why had her mother insisted on it hanging there and not in the stairs with the other regimental prints? Because she was not herself, her father said when he moved away. Another strange middle-aged couple came after supper. They were foreigners, with another foreign man and an officer acquaintance. In the night she woke up and went down and saw her mother lying on the chaise longue. Her hand was trailing on the floor and her head was swollen up and purple as an eggplant and she was speaking a strange language, her voice deep like a man's. She remembered her father quickly scooping her up in his arms and carrying her upstairs to bed. She asked him if there was anything the matter with Mother. And he said, It's something she has to do, rocking her in his arms.

* * * * *

Her mother liked being seen with her. Some afternoons, perhaps because she could be seen from afar, she would be taken to a cafe - which had a Spanish name - where they would sit at a table on the sidewalk and her mother buy her Schweppes.

Pignon in the dress with the Watteau bodice. Her eyes are downcast and her arms, their divine form, inviting when she raises them to unpin her hair which is upswept in braids. I ask her if she loves me. She looks at me without blinking, her pupils large, and lets me kiss her arms. Meanwhile she has let her hair down and unbraids it and all at once her arms are full of fox kits. The creatures have slept in the softness of her arms and made her milk come. She shows me and lets me taste it. It is sweet and abundant. I kiss her bosom. Suddenly she laughs and hops down, lifts the dress and asks "Am I pretty?"

In the spring of Pignon's eleventh year her mother secured an affair with the curate, who lived alone with his daughter Ramona. The two girls went to Rudolf Steiner school together, and although Ramona was a year older than Pignon they took to each other and became inseparable chums. At the beginning Pignon disliked Ramona's father. She thought that instead of being his equal the man regarded himself as her father's accomplice. As it turned out, his involvement was a mission of exposure whose outcome caused her to loathe him, an emotion she had never known.

      Round and round the garden
      Like a teddy bear;
      One step, two step,
      Tickle you under there!

It was one of those golden evenings. The Dravidian woman was hanging out her own wash. Her movements were like a dance, bending over into the basket of wet laundry, reaching up to the clothesline, the attitude of taking a clothespin from her mouth, kite's tail braid swaying. It was her husband's work clothes, a lengthening row of drab shirts and shapeless pants and jackets. Another row of the same. Her husband's socks and gray underwear. Then, astonishingly, a breathtaking garment appeared on the line, some gossamer stuff like silk and bright golden yellow as the evening light. It was the Dravidian woman's nightgown.

* * * * *

      Put your finger in foxy's hole
      Foxy's not at home,
      Foxy's at the back door
      Picking at a bone.

The girl had a dream having the quality of the intrusion of an alien consciousness. She was presented with a series of visions, or impressions, of the dead and their state of being, where they existed in a kind of unison or unanimity in a sub-temporal chamber. The chamber was of gigantic proportions but was full of chinks where the wind could be heard whistling. The state of unison of the dead was such that any disturbance produced a resonance in the chamber. During the dream there was a disturbance like the lid being lifted off a beehive and replaced; not roughly, but the act caused a cataclysmic jarring followed by a sound like thunder, and then the dead hummed all at once. She saw her mother among them. It it was as though she were seeing her with another's eyes, the eyes of a man, perhaps her father. At any rate, she was wondering in the dream whether she weren't seeing her with a man's eyes when she heard herself saying - So that's what they see in you. She looked like the model in a cigarette ad in one of her father's old American magazines. There were the candelabra and the air of a formal gathering, the glitter and emanations, all of it just out of reach. She heard herself speak her mother's name for the first time. She said "Ulla, you're stunningly beautiful." She was arranging her hair, and though she was just out of reach she could smell her perfume. When she said "Ulla, you're stunningly beautiful" her mother laughed warmly and replied "Yes, why shouldn't I be? It's for you. It's all for you." When she tried to go to her mother the girl wet her bed. She finished wetting the bed.

She went out of her bedroom and down the stairs, opened the living room door and stepped inside. It was the same setting as the dream, the candelabra lighted, people sitting around the occasional table, the glitter and emanations. She recognized the industrialist and one of the officers, and there was another odd old couple. Were they historians? Ramona's father was there. He winked at her. She stuck out her tongue at him. Her mother was wearing the same ball dress as in the dream. She was sitting with her legs spread on the piano stool. Her eyes were closed and she was making sweeping motions with her hands up her thighs and into her loins. The girl ran to her unthinking like a toddler.

- Mother, I wet the bed. I'm sorry.

- Change your nightgown, dear. You can sleep in my bed.

- Father said you weren't yourself. Couldn't you turn my mattress? I would rather sleep in my own bed.

- I know he said that. Only my face and my body are your mother's. Your mother is somewhere else. Would you like to see where she is?

- Yes.

- Then run over to the window seat and open the curtains. Tell me what you see out in the garden.

Barefooted across the bare summer floor, up and kneel on the cushion. Part the green velvet curtains. The open window cool on her wet nightgown. The bright June night, birds singing. A couple strolled into view. A woman who looked like her mother. It was her mother. She was with some kind of young soldier. How strangely he walked, jerking in his starched chinos, garrison cap perched on his crewcut like a pup tent. There were so many birds, and the incandescent lilacs.

- Forgive me, said the woman on the piano stool.

Country girls with the wind on their lips, little girls with ice cream cones like cups that runneth over, girls with big freckles on their cheeks like tears and soft downy lips and blue eyes with long black lashes that crackle; little girls with hairy legs, tall blondes with long broad forearms, girls with smiles sweet and wispy as cotton candy, the elephant bath of big girls. The fox is in the flower garden, snoot in a petunia, licks a big red petal.

The affair ended a year later with the fulfillment of the next spring, which was the occasion for the luncheon Ulla gave one rainy May afternoon. She began talking about a mutual acquaintance.

- He isn't better looking for being named Torben, Ulla said. Think, a moustache and contact lenses...

It was obvious she thought she had taken the collar off the curate. They refrained from looking in his direction.

- He zips around in a little old Neckar Jagst, she went on. He bought a pipe to go with his new blazer. Why there were already tiny teeth marks on it.

The industrialist's wife tittered through a bite of paté. Pignon looked into her horse face, then looked at Ramona who was whispering something into her father's ear. He cleared his throat and after swallowing hard said

- If the man has made such a drastic change in his appearance then he must be trying very hard to communicate something. Maybe you ought to try to find out what it is.

Ulla smiled.

- How would you go about doing that, Teddy?

- By dropping a remark about a popular TV program, say, and being alert to his response, he replied, to which the industrialist added

- Of course. As though somebody said something extraordinary about the weather.

- You could be one jump ahead of him, said Ulla, by saying that it's fine weather for ducks. How would he handle something like that? Or do you think it would demoralize him into coming to church?

- It might just demoralize him into going to bed with you, the curate returned and the others applauded. After a moment the doctor cleared his throat.

- Let's play the idea out, he said. There's a popular videotape science fiction series called Five Farad Moon, about a planet one of whose moons is something of a rotton apple. Well, Gnosfer's cyclical erratic orbit has once again brought it into close proximity to Padma, and in one of the instalments the moon discharges its freak high ground voltage into the mother planet. Now Teddy, how would you remark on the event to our friend Torben?

- Well, I might give credit to his education by saying, Doesn't Gnosfer's zapping Padma remind you of the myth of Danae?

- What's the myth of Danae? Pignon interjected.

- Of course, said the doctor. The Greek god Zeus made a woman pregnant with a shower of gold.

- Large charge, her mother snorted.

- That's it! said Teddy.

- What's what?

- That's what Torben responds with. I know the man and that explains the sudden change in his appearance. He's opened a charge account at one of the department stores.

- I was hoping he would have said, Yes, surely there will be an upsurge in the economy, said the industrialist.

- What it amounts to, the curate continued, is using people as impromptu oracles. We divine things from their immediate reaction to our casual remarks. The oracle at Delphi was a product whose purveyors took pains to ensure its freedom from adulteration, and the first word is still setting things in motion like coins in a slot machine. Just look at our foreign laborers and you'll see how far the idea of free love is from being universal. It's the same with religion. People can't imagine it being something else than a medium of exchange. To paraphrase Meister Eckehart, they're still wrapping God in a cloak and hiding him under the chair.

- God the stylist, the industrialist chuckled, dabbing his lips with his napkin. A goose's foot is a little different from a duck's so that it is immediately recognizable for what it is. Even if only a little bit of the animal remains it is possible to identify the whole creature, even if it is only an aftertaste such as after a meal.

The rain stopped while they were finishing their dessert. As they were getting up from the table Pignon asked the doctor

- Did the woman have a baby?

- Yes, the Gravidian woman, Ramona sniggered.

- Ah, you mean Danae, he winked at the girls. As a matter of fact she did. A kid named Parzifal.

The others had coffee on the terrace and Pignon and Ramona went upstairs and changed clothes. The garden was ariot with birds. In a little while the girls emerged through the French doors wearing their Merrimekko kimonos and to appreciative encouragement tiptoed down to the lawn. Ulla started the cassette recorder but Pignon and Ramona, hopping up and down in the wet grass, chorused objections and the machine was turned off after a few bars of "Elvira Madigan." Then, with bare feet and flashing limbs, the redhaired girl and the dark haired girl danced a Eurythmic dance to the singing of nature.

* * * * *

- Bringing my buggy back home, he laughed, tickling her under her ear.

She blinked slowly, her head on her arm. He gave another little laugh and disappeared down the ladder. He got into Ulla's berth. She heard them say something to each other after they turned the light out. Trans Europ Nacht. They were taking the Neckar Jagst with them. It was riding in another car of the train. A sleeping car for cars. The idea appealed to the girl's imagination and she fell asleep thinking about it. She knew they were doing it for her.

The next morning she watched him put his contact lenses on before he shaved. She let Ulla put her hair up for her. They went to the dining car. It was another one of those breakfasts. All the girl would have was a glass of milk. She hadn't eaten a proper meal since the spring.

The train pulled into Munich and they lugged their baggage. In the station she saw a German family. Their train was announced and she and the other girl exchanged glances. The other girl, in her eagerness, made two or three grabs at its handle before finally picking up the bag she was to carry and hurrying after the others. In a little while the Neckar Jagst was ready.

They headed out of Munich, stopped for lunch in Dachau. In Augsburg Torben had to ask the way to the automobile factory. It was insufferably hot. At the factory a nice man helped them put their suitcases in a brand new cream colored BMW. Then he shook hands again with Torben and they drove off. She liked the blue-and-white emblem on the radiator and the trunk lid.

The new car smelled good.

They were staying in Jachenau, near the Austrian border. A little boy stood in the middle of the little road and stared at her. He was wearing Lederhosen. They were very old and very shiny and he was very suntanned. A cabbage moth fluttered and grazed his straw-colored hair. He slapped at it while keeping his eyes on the girl.

- Guten Morgen she said, and jogged past him down into the valley.

They went on excursions in the BMW. She wanted to go inside a church but Ulla wouldn't let her. Torben said Come on, it's all right. But Ulla put her foot down.

In Salzburg they climbed the footpath to the top of the old fortress, where there was a restaurant. She watched them eat ice cream. A man came and sat down with them. He addressed Ulla as Madame Berg. He was American. He offered Torben a cigar. She watched the two men. The man showed Torben how. He had to pull a straw. It ran down the middle of the cigar. He had to pull it out before lighting his cigar. She excused herself and went to the edge of the terrace and sat on the stone parapet.

Her ice cream was melted. They went sailing on the Ammensee. A lightning storm overtook them on their way in. They sailed into it and the little sloop was nearly broached to. Drenched and shivering, they changed clothes in the boat house.

They drove up in the mountains in the lashing rain with the intention of showing the girl a castle. Ulla spoke longingly of a plate of hot soup, and so when they came to a village and found a Gasthof they parked the BMW and made a dash for it. The dining room was crowded. They were shown to a table and Torben ordered. A lot of men were sitting at a long table drinking beer. They must have been with the tourist bus parked outside.

The woman brought the soup and the bread and the platter of sliced sausage. The girl immediately ate some of the soup. The men sitting at the long table began singing. All of them were rather elderly, many stout and with apoplectic complexions. But when they stood up one of them was unbelievably skinny and tall and looked like a string unfolding. She laughed. She took a hunk of bread, broke it, dipped it in the soup and ate it. The German men were singing lustily with linked elbows, swaying together from side to side in time to the music, beer mugs raised, as the storm blustered outside. She ate her soup and excused herself.

She ran out and down the road and up the steps of the village church. The door was unlocked. She went inside, impelled by the weight of the door closing after her.

It was so dark. She stood for a minute, then cautiously made for some candles which were burning in a far corner. Then the lightning flashed and she could see the whole interior. It was somewhat more gorgeous than Teddy's church, she decided. She made for the candles. At a slant with the altar was a glass coffin, though she hadn't identified it as such yet. Perhaps a glass montre, she thought with a French word.

The lightning flashed at intervals. There was a dead person inside the montre. The skull was wearing a crown of some kind. A diadem. She saw her breath fog the glass. She fogged the beveled glass and drew a face with her fingertip. A round circle, two dots for the eyes. A big smile. She laughed under her breath. The skeleton was wearing golden slippers. With a touch of her fingertip she gave the face a nose.

There was a series of lightning flashes and a row of craniums in a box over the side chapel appeared to jabber together. Light as an animal she curled up on a pew, gazed for a minute. Fell asleep in the rolling thunder.

The Anthroposophical toy store on Leopoldstrasse. She would be twelve in January.

* * * * *

- A first-class vacation. The scenery. The Mozart. The trout poached in white wine and the saddle of venison and all she did was gnaw on a crust of bread!

The cool wafer of the stethoscope, the doctor's hand on her chest. Breathe deeply. The thick warm hand. Slid down her tummy.

- Anorexia praecox. Take her to the hamburger places. The soft, exciting, carbohydrate food. Puts meat on their bones.

A new hamburger restaurant opened in the city. There was a clown in a big kinky orange wig. Made much of her. Whoops! What was funny about Sonny was that his suspenders went from in front over his shoulders and down in back to his bootstraps so the only way he could keep his pants up was one step at a time. She didn't touch her free Whopper or thick strawberry milkshake. Just picked at some pommes frites.

Scabiosa herba. Oh bonny's the morning the tall scabious the blue-and-white pincushion devil's bit corollas tiny spiderwebs petal-to-petal flyboy tall among the marigolds busy morning ladies morning glories small glories busy glories up the stalks stockingly. Heavyheaded marigolds inclined on palmstogether leaves in ballet sleep. Oh the longsince tulips remember the tulips when their petals are on the ground and the fox's snuffbox in a rose his trail through the dewy grass remember this now the marigolds and the little morning glories all the way the finished cobwebs and the dew. She lived on the dew like a cricket.

Unbuttoning her dress the girl nude except for her party shoes. Her own theater gelatines. An edible smell of fingerpaints, a souvenir from the ice show, colored cellophane candy wrappers with a sweet taste of their own, an indelible pencil and spit.

She went down the stairs in her party shoes and white ankle socks, paused for a moment listening to the voices in the living room went into the kitchen a took a bread knife. Took a loaf from the bread box and sliced herself a thin, nearly transparent slice. She opened the pantry door, took the squat brown glass of Marmite down from the spreads shelf, opened it and inhaled the zesty aroma. When she had done this she took it to the counter and spread some on her slice of bread.

Holding it level on her upturned palm she went into the hall with it and stood in front of the living room door. Then she turned and went through the kitchen, through the laundry room and out the back door. In the silvery moonlight strolled across the dewy lawn. Up the steps to the terrace. One of the French doors was open, the portiere drawn and bellying slightly. She crouched and took her shoes off. With her slice of bread in one hand and her shoes in another she slipped between the heavy velvet curtains and stood looking at the people who were sitting around the occasional table. Torben was sitting on a kitchen stool reading from a writing pad on his knee.

IT IS WHITE AND FOLLOWS ME

In the candlelight the forearms of the people could be seen with index fingers touching the grid bottom of the whiskey tumbler, which was upside down on the table. There was an atmosphere of solemnity.

- What is? Ulla intoned.

The tumbler, the hamburger, began moving, pausing at one of the pasteboard tabs which were arranged in a circle on the tabletop and then moving on to another. Torben wrote the letters it indicated in the writing pad. Unobserved, the girl slipped over and sat down in a wing backed chair and began eating her slice of bread. The tumbler ceased its skatings and Torben read what it had just spelled.

MY ARSE

While they were nervously laughing she put her shoes on. She could see the look of intensity on her mother's congested face. The hamburger started scooting around again on the beeswaxed walnut, forearms following like an aquatic dance called "The Fishes' Song" that she and Ramona had learned at Rudolf Steiner school.

MY EYES THE CARROTS IS PUNCHABLE

The participants looked at each other, forefingers poised on the hamburger. It started moving, faster and faster.

THE LATH HAS CLAMMED HERSELF AND IS GOING TO HOP THE TWIG

- Are you referring to my daughter? Ulla exclaimed.

The tumbler did a veritable cadenza like a tapdancer.

THE CHICKABIDDY IS AS SKINNY AS A DOGS HIND LEG A LITTLE KITCHIN PHYSIC WILL SET HER UP

- But she refuses to eat.

The others were looking with quizzical intentness at Ulla. The tumbler gave no sign of responding.

- Are you there, Ronnie? I said she refuses to eat.

All at once the hamburger took off.

A MOT WHOSE CUNT IS READY TO BITE HER ARSE NEEDS A COVE WHO FUCKS LIKE A STOAT

The laughter was somewhat less nervous. Ulla was blushing to the roots of her hair.

- You're awfully gross, Ronnie.

THE TIB IS NOT GOING TO ANY SLUBBER DE GULLION OR BEAU NASTY HE WILL TAKE THE WRINKLES OUT OF HER BELLY AND MAKE A FUBSEY WENCH OF HER

- Tell me who he is.

Pignon licked the Marmite off her fingers. The fish arms must be tired. She broke wind like a whisper.

The hamburger started up again, more slowly.

EXCUSE ME THIS TIME I HAVE CAGGED MYSELF FOR SIX MONTHS

- But who is he?... Are you there, Ronnie? Ronnie swadkins?

Ulla was whimpering and cooing. She gave a spasm as from a passing chill. Pignon stood up, stepped to the edge of the shadows and stood a little behind and to one side of Torben.

-Are you there, Ronnie? Tell me who he is. Pretty please, Ronnie. Ronnie?

The veins stood out on Ulla's forehead. The hamburger scooted around again quickly like a signature with a flourish and stopped.

BROTHER ROUND MOUTH HAS PREACHED

Throats were cleared and forearms snaked down into laps. Arched eyebrows and an expectant turning to Ulla. Suddenly the woman caught sight of her naked daughter. With a scream she rose and grabbed the tumbler.

- You little sneak!

She was in the hall just as the tumbler struck the doorjamb and smashed in a hundred pieces. It was possible to catch the summer, like running for a bus.


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Estrangements, 5 October 1996