Thursday, September 8, 2011

Nature Writing

Another chapter of Eugene, OR. I'm letting them land pointillistically, which is a fancy way of saying cut me some slack for this having apparently nothing to do with the last one. The title has a "II" at the end of it because this is the second chapter of the novel "Nature Writing" (one of eight novels in the cycle). Don't worry: I am fairly certain that this will all make sense, at some point. Or worry. That would be refreshing. 

Nature Writing (II)

Then I made my body into a bear’s body – for her, I said. It happened after one of our terrible dreams. My wife was lying in bed thinking about the fight we’d had, about the silverware, which I could never get clean, and about the correct way to floss teeth. Her long thumbs made her a natural at the serial pick-and-slide; but the rabbit, who was also there, found faithfulness of any kind bourgeois. He believed that a true flosser – an artist in other words, displaying an artist’s playfulness with the limitations of his medium – would gravitate naturally towards risk. One of his more popular demonstrations of this hypothesis was to spool an entire box through his lower jaw and then jerk it out, like a magician removing a tablecloth. He called this trick “Tullaine”, after a lost love. But my wife was skeptical. “What does a rabbit know about flossing teeth?” she asked, meeting his eyes in the mirror. 

That was the dream; but then later, while I was taking a shower, I noticed that my shoulders had developed two thin ridges of fur on them, right along the top. I knew I had to think fast; so I focused on my right arm, which is my brave arm. “Epaulettes!" I shouted at the showerhead, which in our apartment is even better than a tin can. Sure enough, in a few seconds my wife’s voice came trickling out of it. "Epaulettes?" "Epaulettes," I repeated. "I’m sorry about the silverware." “No you’re not," said my wife. "You just don’t want anyone to be mad at you." The dripped syllables sounded distant: as if she were stuck in the plumbing somewhere. I wanted to twist the shower-head off and shove my paw down it until I felt the soft water of her hair. But I was too big now to do something like that, which meant that all I could do was tell her to wait. "That's what I'm doing," she said. "I'd be down there now, but bears hate water," I said. "Cat's hate water. Bears love water." "I'm changing," I said. "Well then turn the water on," she said. So I did. It rushed over me like an embrace, and I howled for my life; but this, as my wife explained in a letter she sent me after it was all over, only proved that she was right. I hadn't changed a bit. 

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