“Bonsoir, Edouard! Nous sommes ici pour nique votre maison, ça va?”
Cajoling French bounced up the stairs and grew louder still as the number of fluent speakers crowding the entrance hall expanded exponentially, their exchanges punctuated by booming, confluent laughter. Susan could hear William’s voice in the disturbance as she stood on the landing with her dinner plate, unwilling to descend into the throng disgorged from the squadron of vehicles that had flattened the front lawn. They were a largely homogenous cohort, smelling of hair product and hashish and stentorian pour homme, sporting coppery suntanned limbs, polo shirts, piercings and conspicuous masculine bravado, from which she guessed their awarness of Edward’s absence. They espied her in the midst of their grinning surveys, one young man tugging William’s sleeve and nodding back at her from beneath his dark crop.
“Sachiin... qui est cette fille? T'as vu ce cul? Ask her to come down...”
William glanced up at her.
“Christabel... nous avons bollchu...” he called, with an introductory wave of his arm toward the door. An enormous vat of dented metal was dragged laboriously inside by a party of attendants; after them came a girl in black, librarian glasses framing her heavily-kohled eyes, accompanied by a stranger who, from his resemblance to her employers seemed to be the elusive guest to which William had referred. Bede glanced up at her and gave a brief, acknowledging smile before following his companion into the drawing room.
“I think I’ll just go up.” Susan replied. “Oh... your brother called while you were out... he said he’ll be back in about an hour. Something about the flight being nobbled.” William fell silent, stilled along with those of his companions still in earshot, and she waited while the full implications of her advisory settled upon them, smirking at the effect. “I’m joking.” she added, finally.
"Spank her, Guillaume!" his friend cried.
"I'm too scared to now." he confessed. "But it's May Eve... you have to give us a kiss, poupée. Bad luck not to." William announced. She murmured to herself, then clumped halfway down the stairs where she leant out over the balustrade to oblige him. William fended off Luc's demand for the same consideration and grasped the bannisters, drawing himself up to meet her. Susan touched her lips to his forehead, then to the corner of his smile when he turned it to her.
“They could have taken that around the side.” She nodded at the huge vat and the manner in which its handlers were struggling to pass it through the drawing room door.
“They’re from Languedoc and their parents were cousins... if you upset them, they start crying and shitting their pants.”
“Hey, serpent-visage... tais-toi! My mother she is a whore, not an inbred! Remember that when you are fucking her, eh?” called one of the subjects of his caution.
“You’re not coming down?” William reached out to slap Luc's head in the midst of the lurid demonstration the latter had begun for her benefit. "I'll lock him in the garage..."
“Scorcese marathon.” she shrugged, nodding up the stairs. “Have a good one.”
Gouging the parterre with the feet of the cumbersome vat, the party crossed the lawn beside the pool and disappeared from Susan’s window view into the distant trees with William’s ghettoblaster, culling firewood from the edge of the orchard as they went. Their site settled upon, Bede accepted the bollchu ladle to the disgust of the French contingent who clamoured for precedence.
“My god...” he grimaced. “If it wasn’t Prometheus who taught werewolves to make bathub absinthe, it must have been someone else who’s liver regenerated overnight. Sachiin, this is Fred... we met in Venice." he added, referring to the darkly-clad girl.
"Frederica." she said quickly.
"You may not be charmed, but I am." William smiled at her.
"She’s ah, fully au fait, in case you were wondering.” The girl sat down between them in the tall grass, pushing it back from her knees and adjusting her glasses; William looked from one to the other and let his mouth drop open. “She’s very learned, you realize... art school.” Bede smiled nervously; their host had not recovered from their initial revelation.
"This was a really stupid idea..." Frederica confided to her companion.
"No no... you are... probably... entitled, under the circumstances... it's just... fucking hell... B's a bigger chickenshit than I am." William admitted, regarding his friend with the ghost of a frown. “Art school? You’ve heard of my brother then? Serious artist... ugly oils on canvas, looks like a rotten bird hit an angry windscreen?”
“Sure... his stuff's blowing up right now. This place is amazing... it would be so great to get in here with medium format before all the work's done.” she sighed as she looked back over her shoulder through the trees. William scratched at his head for a moment and almost replied before he was interrupted by the youth behind them.
“This place is like the bomb!” the latter agreed. “We can go crazy here! Not like France, you know, with all the stupid rule an asshole vampyre death squad... fuck the cochon noir, I tell you... I will fuck them up the ass, an then Étienne, he can have them after with his tiny baby cock. But Sachiin, allez... we need to bring you an your brother home with us... it’s no good.” Bede lay back against the grass and propped his head on his hands, glancing down his nose at William. “...An Unite de Recherche d’Anomalie... fuck you too, eh? Loupgarous put you into plastic bags.”
“That was you guys?” asked William, looking to his cousin. Luc patted his stomach, lowered his chin and emitted a tremendous belch as though it were the opening note of baritone part.
“Not er, exactement... maybe we have some help from Auberjonois..."
"You do his fucking garden."
"N'importe quoi... Léon an Étienne, they polish wood also.” A pine cone struck the back of the smirking speaker’s head, loosed from the hand of Étienne.
“Thank you baby Jesus.” William murmured at the contingent of local alujha sauntering past the pool toward them, bearing gifts and greeting their Continental counterparts with sly digital gestures and other vulgarisms. Upon arrival in the grove they dumped a sack of charcoal, petrol tin and the gutted, headless carcass of a small ungulate down on the grass. Clothing and accents aside, they resembled their compeers closely, their disconcerting vitality a ubiquitous equivalence. The foremost wiped the grease from the carcass on the back of his jeans and lit a cigarette, his faded leprechaun-green mohawk tied down in a tail. He nodded toward the vat of bollchu with parental pride.
"Ca-leb." William smirked.
"You like this batch a’ b? We knocked back the artemesia by... shit... half, I guess, hit it with some sativa, Sticky Gerald's Aphex Doom clone, man... we put in like an acre of that shit under a fuckin badass dual rig..." The newcomer shook his head as though he barely believed his own temerity. "Brought a few pounds down... oh yeah, and scopolia, we got scopolia like you wouldn’t fuckin believe this year, coming up along the interstate... we got that up while things were gibbous, so it’s extra fuckin gamey... Mallet dropped some amanita in along the way, he’s a sneaky bastard. So yeah, maybe... don’t go operating machinery. Do we set some shit on fire now, or will old Ed bust a fucking vessel? Don’t want him at the farm in a bad fuckin mood because we eighty-sixed his lawn... we don’t have to cook it... just thought, y’know, it’s more fuckin polite...”
William glanced at Frederica, who stared in horror at the florid colours of the caracass lying within an arm’s length of her leg.
“I think we'll go with the fire.” he advised. They watched the party toss the collection of dead branches into a pile and douse it liberally with solvent before leaping backward as the whole went up in a great burst of jacinth flame. As one, the trio crabbed back against the trees to avoid the singeing heat and the sight of the meat being loaded onto its spit to the sound of whooping approval. “If only carnivores would just drop the shit and eat each other.” William sighed, sharing the girl’s disapprobation. “So you’re baelna rather than dralna?"
She blew her heavy black bang from her forehead.
“Oh yeah it’s baelna alright... I have a hard enough time just like, cutting the heads off flowers, so I don’t know if I'll ever be really ready to get jumped in by the kitten-skinners... guess I’ll go with the Green side of things til I get disillusioned with society.” Frederica mused over the oblivious cackling of the other guests.
“Don't feel too bad... the green side of the Craft's probably OG... it’s just that the Red girls use machetes on anyone who says that. Have you...” William suppressed a smile, shaking his head at the ground. “Met Nyāti?”
“Nope. Don't do mama drama.” She spoke and smiled with the perfect ease of someone never punished for the expression of either. “I'm not scene. Nothing political... I mean, it’s great that there’s a community, but I really do not like vampyres, and the lunar side of things...” She looked pointedly over her shoulder. “Not so much either.”
“Nobody likes vampyres...” William assured her.
“Look, it’s really fine. I don’t do hardcore, no one else is involved...”
“Frederica, believe me when I say you can’t trust the normals..." Bede interjected. "It’s not that we don’t enjoy their company, it’s just that when adversity strikes, they’re heavily inclined to drop the portcullis on your head in their haste to differentiate themselves. You must be careful, and that does mean being affiliated. For the peer review if nothing else.”
“You guys... now you’re freaking me out.” Frederica complained.
“Hey...” Caleb agreed, interrupting his eavesdropping to lean over and hand them the bollchu ladle. “Better to freak you out now than toss a fuckin medical waste dump for your bodyparts later... try that shit in summer. Lamb... you mind if I put out a call? I got some friends who know some people...”
“Do these people have a pulse?”
“Hell yeah. Some of them’ll let you take a core temp. I’ll hook you up.” The sound of car doors slammed on the road outside the house rendered the gesture redundant, however; the bollchu master grinned and slicked down his mohawk in concupiscent expectation as a throng of heavily-painted and thickly-bejewelled women rounded the side of the house, bearing shopping bags bulging with alcohol and foodstuffs. “Gotta love the kitten-skinners. They always bring a fuckin plate.”
“Caleb, hopefully they’ll get drunk and do stuff to us, so let’s just think about what we say before we say it and concentrate on getting bad-touched.” William reminded him earnestly. Frederica stood up and brushed off her legs.
"I think I'll get back... I'm halfway through a thing... gotta turn it in by the weekend, so..."
She reached down to shake William's hand again before beginning the walk back to the house with Bede, in time to pass the incoming dralna party. Smoke swooped down through the seated conclave and they waved it away with complaining hands. William smiled a greeting to the witches that murmured and trailed their fingers through his hair as they passed him by.
“B... why are really you here?” he asked without preamble as the latter returned. “She's nice, but you’re her summer bitch, and Nyāti sure as hell didn’t cross the Atlantic to have a thing with an art school witch." Behind them, the growing volume of Luc and Caleb's exchange overrode Bede's halting reply.
"Everyone say to me, Luc, don't take your nice clothes, Americans they are all salopes but that's not true... they are fucking coincé an I have no baiser at all! C'est naze!" The locals pricked up their ears and scowled, Caleb shaking his head regretfully.
"That's a pretty hard thing t'say about my people there Luc... cuts me deep when a man can't find a slut in a freakin slutstorm and dammit, I'll fuck you myself if it makes you feel more welcome." he promised. "I'll peg anything that twerks my way, and you sure as hell aint the worst that ever has, jesus... I'd call you pretty if it weren't a fuckin week off the full." he added, referring to the three-quarter moon overhead.
"Fancy talk won't get you to the cigare, mon ami." Luc suggested, insouciant.
"He's more brokeback than downtown." William warned. "You'll be lucky if he spits in his hand." Those between them shuffled back; proximity did not visibly deflate either protagonist, and Luc shook out his arms, cracking his neck to one side.
"Allez?" he inquired.
"Fuckin A." laughed Caleb, unbuckling his belt to the acclaim of their companions. Bollchu got the better of their physical coordination and sent them staggering sideways through the fire, Caleb throwing the Frenchman down into the grass beyond the charcoal where they tongued and pawed at one another hungrily while spectators dug dollar bills and cigarettes from their pockets, showering them with palpable encouragement. Their trajectory spawned an argument between the squabbling cooks, who cried out in two languages as the crudely-spitted carcass dived into the cinders in a burst of sparks and ashes. William shook his head as they began to trade accusations.
“Étienne... qu'est-ce que tu fous... eat it, or bury it.” he called, leaning sideways to avoid the rustic clinch absorbing his two friends as it rolled in his direction. Pouring scorn, the witches displaced the fire’s scowling attendants and usurped their duties, swigging from vodka bottles and demanding the bollchu ladle.
When William dreamed it was often of remembered things, visions charged with partial, elusive significance, faces and voices, joys and horrors, the tenderness of familiar hands and the still-bitter sting of recrimination. At other times, long passages of mnemonic life returned to him in their entirety and he would awaken to an alien world that seemed far less material than the departing dream. Lying on the ground beneath the tree, his outline painted dim red by the distant glow of the fire, he wiped blindly at his face and rolled onto his back beside a hookah that had fallen into a similar recumbence. Around the makeshift hearth half a dozen figures were still partially sensible, but they were greatly outnumbered by those who had succumbed.
C O N T I N U E D N E X T W E E K
© céili o'keefe do not reproduce
WHY WAIT? BUY THE BOOK HERE. 240 000 words, 600 pages, 2500 years, 4 continents.
All for $3.99- less than a cup of coffee.
For a good time, shave your head and show up at my front door looking like a totally fucked intergalactic messiah slash road hazard. I dare you.
While my band would definitely have two of everything, we were perhaps the last people on earth to get with the Smashing Pumpkins. It's still a heavily-qualified détente centered largely around my inability to stay mad at a giant freak in latex and our mutual love of attention-seeking guitar. (Having come to terms with my own inner egomaniac, I feel more charitable these days.) Both the lovely R and I historically dissed the SPs on account of Corgan's notoriously insufferable shenanigans and, inevitably, the fact that everyone else loved them, which was extremely annoying. Then about a year ago we found a copy of Ava Adore lying on the footpath and brought it home and had to admit bits of it were like, okay.
I regret to inform you that this song sucks arse on puter speakers, but I just put it through our old Tannoy set up this morning and believe me, people were bleeding from their eyes three blocks away. They can thank me later.
I was driving around a sort of notional Scotland, the highlands, it seemed, in a black London taxi with people I didn't know. We were visiting a group of medieval villages called 'high towns' because each of them had in their midst a sort of small castle or redoubt situated on a giant stone outcrop shaped like a basaltic prism. These keeps were all ruined and disused but drew your eye magnetically from wherever you were in the surrounding towns, which were themselves quaint in a strange, almost uncomfortable way, overgrown, slightly decrepit, the houses a little sunken on their foundations.
I was visiting an antiques dealer in one of these towns. He had an old house converted to a shop, very dark inside and stuffed to overflowing with Victoriana and Continental pieces, stags's heads smothering the walls and dirty gilt frames everywhere. As I was working my way through the place I looked up and saw a turquoise necklace pinned to the wall overhead, its beads as big as my fist. I asked the dealer about them.
He was a strange man, decrepit in the same manner as the little fortresses, looking as though there was something biologically wrong with him. He wore a white suit with narrow black stripes and started talking in a croaky frog-like voice; then the dream ended. I don't know what he was saying but he wasn't talking about the necklace.
I think it's really interesting that I'm having all these graphic, narrative-style dreams during such a productive phase as far as the second book goes, which I'm writing now. For me, these 'dream runs' often coincide with periods of imaginative fertility; I have a theory about our levels of consciousness and creativity and I will bore you with it some time soon lol.
I dreamt I had a small creature in my care; it was a scion of my own flesh, like a child but not a child. It was shaped like a small pleisiosaur with no flippers and had my pale freckled skin and lay in the crook of my arm while I stroked it. It seemed contented and was warm but had no face or way of expressing itself apart from small movements, like a sleeping puppy.
I was concerned that it had no eyes.
I put it on the ground at someone else's encouragement and it started to become more sentient and active, moving over the floor with this strange undulant motion toward the shallow paddling pool our dog uses in summer.
It climbed into the pool and when I looked down it was swimming and had put out small limbs and looked up at me with a growl and half-snapped at my hand when I tried to touch it. It became jewel-green and had grown black eyes, primitive, like a blind worm's but shining and raised above the skin.
Then I found myself at some sort of public aquarium, the kind with curving glass walls, and I saw the creature swimming with the fish, graceful and independent of me, as though we were never part of one another. But that seemed like something that should always happen and I wasn't sad.
* More of our personal images Here *
As a child, I was once asked to choose a ring from amongst the massed rows of cheap silver on offer to the beach-going tourist in Bali. I chose a cuff-style piece with a single table-cut carnelian, unsure why I had done so in the midst of my infant personal aesthetic, but certain it was what I wanted. The ring has long passed into the yawning oblivion that trails us all but I have since learned that it was probably Afghani, traded southward from its Tadjik origin during the drug-greased Eighties and ending up on the black sand of that Hindu island. And when, much later, I thought about the kind of portable wealth that would hold the respect of the nomad brothers at the centre of The Blackthorn Orphans, I knew immediately that it would be the fabulous gilt and inlaid silver of the Turkic tribes that had once surrounded them in the remote lands of their birth. Who, having amassed a cache of this glamourous finery, would not devise whatever murmuring rationalizations were required to keep it?
This particular species of adornment has always moved me on a fundamental level. I love its brazen challenge to the urbanite and their snobbish notions of having invented taste. This jewellery wrenches the idea of luxury out of the hands of the staid and expands it exponentially, accommodating the necessary vulgarity of status display, of celebrating your personal victories and making them burn in the heart of those around you. Just as weaving ikat is known to the Iban as 'womens' war' because of its inherent conflict with the spirits depicted and the struggle with the techniques themselves, Central Asian silver is a special kind of visual, ritualized violence, something fierce and deliberate. It speaks of proud desire, subverting the modesty and relegation of monotheism. The motifs, though altered by exposure to the more jaded Classical and Chinese idioms, retain the ancient bones visible in the art of everyone from Dogon to Scythian to Celt and Inuit; the appreciation of plenty, the celebration of love and kinship, fortune and fecundity, our compacts with other animals and the elements that birth and consume us. These jewels speak of these things to everyone with eyes to perceive them.
And an interesting insight into the mania that afflicts the devotee. I understand completely...
The Metropolitan Museum of Art -Turkmen Jewelry: Silver from the Marshall and Marilyn R. Wolf Collection
* More Photoessays Here * More Ethnographica *
Nice short piece about Kimberly Motley, an American lawyer practicing in Afghanistan; no burqa, no bullshit, defending local women and winning. See it here.
Rabbit slippers, the plastic eyes of their animal faces scuffed to the appearance of blindness, hushed Susan's progress through an alluring window of license. Wandering outside her uniform and working hours was a sapid novelty expanded by solitude; she peered out at the night from the gallery before attending to the objects standing at its far end. A punching bag of oxblood leather hung on a chain in the eastern corner like some alien drupe, a dozen others stacked against the wall. To its left three easels stood draped in drop-cloths. Reaching into her pocket, she dragged out a blue jelly snake and put its head between her teeth, lifting the corner of the longest cowl.
The hidden work proved to be a line drawing of a blackbird's stiffly-plicated corpse. She frowned, twisting the snake around a finger while it occurred to her that the image, so clean of ghosting corrections, was a print; bending at the knee, she touched a finger to the paper, gathering a smear of graphite that sent her sharply backward, looking downward for the feathered body she half-expected at her feet. Such ex nihilo virtuosity cauterized her interest and drove her quickly from the studio.
The floorboards provided a record of the building’s fortunes, scarred with circles of raised grain where windows had admitted rain, holed through and crumbling along the skirting in episodes of rot. The half-moon was bright enough to stand in for the artificial lighting wholly absent from large sections of the upper story. On the wall before the stairs the goat head remained silkily hirsute and haughtily dissociative. The blond intruder’s attempt to access William’s suite gave Susan cause to question the dignity of the enterprise, armed even as she was with an invitation. It was more difficult than she imagined to try the handles; they proved unlocked, and sliding past, she stood a foot inside without progressing any further, whelmed by the shadow-stroked array before her.
The rooms were served by the second of the balconies to the rear of the house, and the moon gazed through its glassed doors onto a gigantic tester bed standing at the centre of the flamboyant chaos, its frame sending its spiraling elephantine pillars toward the ceiling. The undulant mattress wore hand-sewn ticking striped with bright mint green and leaked white feathers onto the floor. Two copper lanterns, their sturdy candles half-expended, stood on a coffer of crimson-stained timber at the end of the bed, its grain ticked as though with flecks of gold. Serpent-headed orobouros had been carved into the face of each compartment.
Along one side of the bed sat a battalion of smaller boxes and miniature chests of brass-bound fruitwood, mottled quill and mink-black lacquer with lids ajar, ravished by a careless inventory. Some held little bales of yellowed linen while their neighbours plainly displayed the fierce, primary gleam of artisan jewels, Turkoman carnelian, thick Swat and Berber silver and limpid Indian enamels. Other chests had been pushed back against the persimmon walls to leave a generous aisle on either side of the frame, though these ways were compromised by spidery crates of wine and a mound of clothing dumped on the ground beside the french doors. Her slippers were slowed by the delicious thickness of the lambswool tulu lying underfoot, their tousled motifs starkly blocked in walnut brown and scarlet. Two small anterooms lay to either side, one revealing a glimpse of a pedestal basin and aged white tiles, the other lying in darkness. The bizarre and diffuse luxury seemed to follow, in handmade abstracts, the principles of an organic wilderness, the bed posts forest stalwarts, the chests like outcrops between plains of shaggy carpet, their crazed geometry and drunken flowers wearing the kilterless flourishes of some vast nomadic domain. A narrow space at the head of the bed offered her a place to martial her thoughts and Susan sank down, lifting a paper scroll she had briefly flattened with her leg.
It unraveled in her lap, exposing its contents to the light over her shoulder. A progression of Japanese images painted in masterful outline and delicate colour began with a courtesan greeting a prospect on a blossom-veiled bridge. It progressed swiftly into the unflinching depiction of her entire repertoire, as requested by the client who seemed as inexhaustible as his purse. The end of the scroll lapsed down her legs while she followed the heroine’s explicit adventures, through the bohemian sector of Edo, a forest infested with amorous trolls, a colony of long-deprived scholars and a rustic fishing port, before she was returned with perfect sang-froid to her quarters in the Floating World. Susan exclaimed softly to herself and lifted her gaze toward the door glass where a face reflected dimly behind her own sent the scroll coiling down her shins, William’s unnerving smile greeting her beneath the hood of his sweatshirt. He knelt on the far side of the bed and reached for something underneath it.
“Wow, I was looking for that shunga everywhere.” he grinned, crossing the mattress on all fours and sitting beside her to peruse the abandoned erotica. “I love the en levrette... his face is priceless. Utamaro knew posh girls like the back of his hairy hand but no one rocks a horny troll party like Hokusai. Have you seen a bag in here? Black record bag, sort of falling to pieces?”
As he pushed back his hood Susan vacated the bed and stumbled backward over a crate of wine.
“I er... I was just over this way, and I... didn’t think you were... um, home...”
He smiled again.
“It's not like I'm clutching any pearls, Christabel... it's my porn." he laughed. "Bede... you haven’t seen Bede here, have you? My height, pony hair?” He patted his pockets in a cloud of distraction.
“Sorry, no. I’ll um, go...” she offered, hoping to duck past him.
“No no no... you need a drink after that lot.”
“I can’t. The agency has a fit if they find out you drink at work.”
“If Opal La Rue told me I couldn't drink, I'd chug a magnum in her lap and piss my pants. What does your agency say about rifling through porn or...” He leant forward with one brow raised, peering downward. “Pocket snakes?"
She scowled, holding to the sentiment, then laughing, tugging the packet of jellies from her cardigan and offering him one. He pulled it free and sucked its length into his mouth, chewing briefly before ejecting it into his hand.
"You didn't even know what that was, did you?" she chuckled, to which he shook his head, wide-eyed. "Did your mother never tell you about putting strange things in your mouth?"
"I know what you're saying. It might not be a lolly next time."
Susan looked back down at the scroll.
“I thought it was artistic.” she insisted, watching him drag an oak tray from under the bed and blow the dust from its row of crystal tumblers. Another manual foray produced a box of lizard-skinned fruit and a bottle half full of grass-green liquid that roiled with an active content barely contained by solution. Accepting a glass from him, she looked around for a place to sit, not daring to resume her seat on the bed and eventually composing herself upon a rug beside it; William followed her lead, setting the bottle in the midst of his folded legs. She watched him sip his drink and peel the skin from one of the nameless fruits, lapsing from discursive verve into that other of his native states, a perfected and halcyon placidity that settled like leaves and stilled his face and hands, the striping on his sweatshirt at once feline and felonious. “What is this?” she exclaimed, holding her glass to the candle light.
"Bollchu. Friends make it at home, and they’re usually pretty f..." He consulted her expression and she nodded earnest encouragement.
"Please say fuck... if I don't hear someone swear in the next twenty four hours I'll probably throw myself off the roof."
"Well, as I meant to say, they're usually pretty fucked up when they cook, so sometimes it’s baby water, sometimes it’s devil piss. Cul sec."
She demurred, still eyeing the liquor doubtfully.
"It's just that bollchu sounds like a sneeze, and it's... green."
"Everything good is bad, in some way."
Still unconvinced, she took a mouthful and almost choked on it, the virulent potion scorching her throat and leaping into her sinuses like plumes of flame. Her watering eyes returned to the scroll once more.
"Can you read Japanese?"
He reached back for it and smoothed it out over his legs, contemplating the shunga's commentary and glancing at her expectant smile, though after some ponderous reckoning William suppressed one of his own.
"No." he confessed, gaze falling to the newsprint hanging from a crate of wine. "But ah, attends en peu...recherche de la météo d'une ville en France ou dans le monde... pluie, brouillard... frais..." As he read she drifted back against an uncertain assortment of cushions, watching the understated vowels fall from his lips as though they were shapes in a parade of purring and vaporous curlicues that encircled her slowly, given soft wings by his voice. Though she did not notice William reached out and pushed the cardboard box toward her without taking his eyes from the page or breaking his analgesic narrative. She sat in a diaphanous contentment that dropped to a slight frown at its conclusion, her blush returning.
"What was that?"
"Weather for the Paris metropolitan area, nineteen forty nine." He leant forward and picked her right hand from her knee, turning it over. “Hmmm... firstborn... alone... sweet tooth... something about twins.” he added, frowning at the lines crossing her palm.
“I’m a Gemini... how did you know that?”
“I read resumés.” He took more fruit from the box and set it in her hand. "Longan. They look like eyeballs but please don't let that stop you." Knocking back the liquid in her glass, Susan took a deep breath while it went down, attempting to peel the leathery drupe and grimacing at the sight of the gelatinous flesh beneath. "Better than rubber snakes." he promised. He was correct, the webbed grey pulp melting in a fragrant jellybean savour.
She spat out the staring black seed and accepted another.
"I might have the wrong end of the stick, but... there was a blonde woman, with a lot of Dolce and Gabbana... I caught her trying to break into your room.”
"Kali ni'ah... the Rachel. What did she say?”
“I don’t remember much, but she wasn’t very happy.” Susan glanced at his reaction. While not obviously immodest or ill-fitting, there was something in the way he wore clothing that was persistently suggestive, his body so resistant to containment that it reminded her of colonial portraiture, of indigénes standing in the stiff, alien garments foisted on them by studio photographers. The curious quality was so pronounced that she was almost relieved when he dragged the pullover from his head and discarded it, though the aging T-shirt beneath, skewed sideways across his shoulders, revealed a white stripe of skin over the low waist of his jeans. Her gaze wandered toward to it as he spoke.
“No one believes this, but Rachel is really, really not my fault. My brother says I should hit it with the big gauge, but that’s his answer to everything... if a bus full of crippled kids was parked across the drive, he’d yoink the fucking handbrake so he wouldn’t lose his reservation." His phone began to flash again.
"Is she really that bad?"
"She's hell on fucking donk rims."
"But you're still... together?"
He sagged visibly, pouring himself another deep shot of the green liquor.
"No... I've tried escaping, but I just... I fail. Behind all this er, masculinité formidable, I'm a big dumb chickenshit." William confessed. "It's just... I don't know... too easy to be cruel.” She watched him fumble with the telephone. “Now you’re wishing I only drank alone. Don’t worry, I’m totally notorious for my overfamiliarity, it’s not anything you’ve done in a previous life. Putain! I hate this fucking thing!”
Susan shrugged at his struggle with the appliance in question.
"Turn it off."
He looked to her again, uncertain.
"I don't know how. I just leave where I can't hear it."
"Yes, I know." Leaning over her lap, she took it from him and flicked through its menu until its lights died. "There you go. She did seem a bit mental... that Rachel." She frowned and plucked a piece of longan skin from her teeth. “When someone’s nutty, you're not helping them by letting them go on, though. All you can do is say no to them and mean it... if you're serious about wanting them to go away.” She looked back at him pointedly, and he rolled his eyes at his own acedia. “Nutters are like everyone else, really. They might be crazy, but they’re not stupid. If there’s nothing in it for them, then they’ll give up eventually.” The warm smell of her skin was somewhat diluted by the liquor and incense that hung about the chamber, though it had begun to disturb his ease and made him want to stare at her in spite of her perspicacity. Her hair was contained in a small tail and she wore an rust-coloured dress beneath a emerald cardigan, the elemental hues intensifying one another, recalling to him the fluttering finery of Ayubid mujahidîn and the courtyard gardens of Bactrian merchants, their sunbaked walls pinning back the scouring wastes. Her gifts did not amount to the passive, expectant beauty that had so long defeated his esteem; the bright pneuma of something greater moved within her, humbling the liberties he was so accustomed to taking. “I actually spoke to him the other day... your brother.” Susan confessed. William laughed as he rolled another longan between his teeth. “It’s not funny..." she scolded. "I didn't know if he was going to fire me or eat my liver.”
“Don't worry, it’s not you. He pink slips me every day of the year, in his mind... he’d fire the entire fucking population for breathing too loudly if he thought he was just head of human resources and not the fucking boss of everything.”
“He's not always like that, is he?”
He leant forward, urging her to do the same so that their heads almost met in an attitude of conspiracy.
"Yeah, pretty much. We just let him clank his chains and chase us off the lawn.” he whispered. “It’s not that he’s all bad... it’s just that people tend to er, qu'est-ce que c'est... die of exposure looking for the good bits. It's like the top of Chomolungma... you know it exists, you can even see it sometimes, but you prefer oxygen to glory.” Her eyes brightened at Edward’s memory, dread diffusing back into circulation. “It was worse, believe me. A lot worse. At least I’ve got him telling me to fuck off. That’s a step up from just the look.” William attempted the expression himself and was able to frame the livid shape of it, if not the caustic colour required by an entirely successful projection. "I'll only say this once... don't put your tongue on him... we're not insured for it."
"Now I'm going to think that every time I see him. Should I know why he's like that?"
"There are reasons." He struggled with the available terms. "Er... some parts are missing. Product may differ from photo after assembly..."
"It's private, in other words." she offered. He nodded, relieved. "Why live with him, then?"
"Let's just say he needs supervision and I'm independently broke."
"So that's not your BMW in the garage?"
He lay back against the frame, rolling his tongue behind his teeth.
"You've gone right off me now, haven't you?"
Susan chuckled and caught sight of her watch as she leant back with her glass.
“This’s late for me.” she told him, looking once more around the room. The skirt of her dress clung to her tights as she stood up, and she dipped quickly to smooth it down. “See you at work I suppose. Thanks for the pint.”
William stretched out slowly on the floor with the bottle, his arm cushioning his head and framing his wide smile.
“What are their names?” he called, watching her frown in the doorway.
Smiling down at her slippers, she shook her head and walked on into the hall.
“None of your business.”
C O N T I N U E D N E X T W E E K
© Céili O'Keefe do not reproduce.
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If you're already reading this, you know I don't need to explain why my eyeshadows fill a box about half a metre square. Or why I sit up at night, modding shades until I see the plush and monstrous purple of my dreams and cachinnate while lightning strikes the house right out of nowhere. There is something alchemic about the glorious chromatic abundance we've been gifted in the last ten years; it wasn't always this way, believe me. In the late eighties all you had were couch-beige, carpet brown and nasty old silvery green, with maybe a chalky baby blue thrown in at one end of your chemist/drug store palette. Shudder. In the nineties we would have shanked a bitch for MAC down here in the southern hemisphere; Revlon was rolling out yawnfest quads (four versions of the same shitty shade!) Occasionally someone would come back from overseas with something called matte and every cakefaced weirdo from twenty miles around would fall upon it on a Friday night, slapping on a big eye and slathering glitter everywhere and crafting architectural brows and Manic Panicking their hair.
One of the few shitty things about getting older is the slowly creeping crépeiness of one's precious eyelids; it begins sooner than you think too so don't give me that look while I'm cane-waving, missy. I've turned more toward a feature lip at the moment but I'll probably be terrifying children with electric eel+wondergrass when I'm eighty. Just for the record, I have green eyes, sensitive, nontanning pale skin and normal-to-oily lids. Nothing in the shadow selection below irritates me and I'm a good 'canary' for sensitivities. Here's a random range of glittery goodness. On my partner's arm ha ha ha snort. He loved every minute of it.
ALL MAC UNLESS STATED. SOME PIGMENTS, SOME SHADOWS. (Please respect my copyright on these.)
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10
1 ORB A really nice, not too pink base/nude/canvas shade. Matte, finely milled, makes your eyes looked dressed.
2 A NATURAL FLIRT (LE) Great pale champagne, delicious formula, a more dimensional nude.
3 FROZEN An icy silver white pigment from back in the day. Frosty without being unflattering.
4 ALL THAT GLITTERS Fucking frosty and cooler than I expected. Not as nice as it looks here. Fallout.
5 OUTRE Fantastic dirty matte mustard, very mutable according to light and skin, more whack than it looks here.
6 GOLDMINE Buttery yellow gold; MAC's best- I've tried them all. Warm, flattering, very little fallout.
7 GOLDEN LEMON Fallout monster but so gorgeous I don't care. Singing xmas gold with minute glitter.
8 AMBER LIGHTS Jesus H Christ this is frosty. Pretty shade but super-eyefucking. Approach with caution.
9 OFF THE PAGE (LE?) Golden orange perfection. Great formula, much nicer than it appears here. Seize it.
10 MUSEUM BRONZE+TEA TIME Boring alone but in a half-half mix they're a useful grown-up bronze.
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10
1 LUSTRELEAF So misunderstood and underrated. A beautiful, sheer lichen-green wash shade. Fantastic.
2 LUCKY GREEN Eyefucking bright golden green, almost duotone. Good wet or dry.
3 WONDERGRASS (LE) Deeelectable loud, graphic intense green. Fabulous off-matte formula. Perfection.
4 SASSY GRASS (LE) Deep crayon/tree green matte. Massively pigmented. Bury me in Sassy Grass. Orgasmic.
5 SWIMMING + KELLY GREEN MIX Kind of boring apart, a nice happy lo-sheen lime together.
6 KRYOLAN CHARTREUSE Very true matte 'treuse, but oxidizes like they all do, even with a hardcore base.
7 TEAL PIGMENT + PARROT MIX Prettier than it looks here. A good lo-sheen cake-icing blue.
8 ELECTRIC EEL Saturated matte cyan, very circus, much stronger than it looks here, absolutely brilliant.
9 ODALISQUE (LE) A grown-up deep teal with a green lean, I'm sort of going off it. A bit tasteful :)
10 ATLANTIC BLUE Matte, deeply saturated, true strong boat-blue. One of MAC's best ever shades.
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11
1 FREE TO BE (LE)+ PINK FRONTIER MIX Makes a lovely coral-leaning pink. Super wearable.
2 PASSIONATE Much stronger red pink than it looks here, sorry. Super matte, very workable, divine.
3 URBAN DECAY STING Great dirty lustrous pink, silky formula, some sheen, not too frosty. Classic.
4 STAR VIOLET Difficult, almost duotone rose/bronze. Bruisy on the wrong skin, lovely done right.
5 CUSTOM COPPER INVOLVING ABOUT 6 MIXED SHADES LOL I'm a copper freak. It had to be right.
6 RED BRICK+ORANGE PIGMENT Fabulous graphic orange matte, makes a green eye go mad.
7 GOLDENROD+A LITTLE CHROME YELLOW Goldenrod just needed a boost.
8 NAPOLEAN PERDIS MATTE RED Pure matte RED DRAMA, deeper and truer than it looks. The best saturated, siren ruby-woo type red. Stains. Terrifying.
9 SOFT WASH GREY Crap capture here. A sheer chromed mauve, complex and pretty. Nice formula.
10 PUSH THE EDGE+GRAPE PIGMENT MIX My best ever custom purple, almost duotone; love it.
11 FIG 1 A deep, dramatic dirty purple matte, fabulous for a green/hazel eye.
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8
1 MANIC PANIC RAVEN EYELINER A nice, underrated waxy matte liner.
2 MANIC PANIC EYELINER BLUE ANGEL EYELINER Fantastic blue; tenacious on waterline.
3 UNDERCURRENT PEARLGLIDE LINER (LE) Fucking glitter migrates everywhere. Beautiful, unwearable.
4 BORDEAUXLINE PENCIL Slightly dry but nonbruisy purple, sometimes irritant on the waterline.
5 FOXY LADY EYE KOHL (LE) Ancient LE, totally hot rosy red with gold reflect; sexy, nasty, lasting.
6 NC15/20 CHROMAGRAPHIC PENCIL Great for evening out a blotchy eye, and on the waterline.
7 BODYSHOP BURNISHED AMBER EYE DEFINER BS liners used to be great, now not so much. Wimpy.
8 GREY UTILITY POWERPOINT PENCIL Nice matte mid grey smudger, dries and stays in place. Ok on w/l.
9 10 11 12 13 14
9 WAVELINE FLUIDLINE Pretty true royal blue. Nice formula. Stays put
10 MACROVIOLET FLUIDLINE Blackened mauve, great for a smoky eye, stays put nicely.
11 DARK DIVERSION FLUIDLINE (LE) Fabulous smoked wine, nicer than the pic, crusty if over-applied.
12 OTHERWORDLY PAINT POT (LE) Oh Alexander, why did you leave us? Beautiful chalk-blue.
13 BARE CANVAS PAINT (TUBE) The best primer and anchor ever. Caked up here; sheer it over lid. Primo.
14 NAKED PIGMENT Nice dimensional nude but nothing spectacular. Quite good lifespan on the lid.