step was light as he walked down the road (this highway with nobody on it) lizards
scurrying off into the brittle sagebrush, their sunbathing briefly interrupted by the soft
percussion of Simon's measured passing. Quail darted about, following topknots that dangled like
crimson carrots before their beaks. Gnats got ensnared by the hair on Simon's arms, until,
with a temperate breath, he set them free. A cactus wren emerged from its nest in a
chollas shaggy skeleton (its issuance seeming to suggest life sprung from death).
Bottle caps, tin cans, and vintage candy wrappers bore testament to litterbugs of old,
while zip-top aluminum cans and the plastic paraphernalia from fast-food
represented trash more contemporarythis latter less profuse, due, evidently, to the
main drags re-routing.
walked along, he came upon a car parked in a small arroyo. It sat just off the road, under
a flowering paloverde tree whose shade still lent protection from the late-morning
though tracks of dew had dried in squiggly lines all down the car windows. He
stepped around front, giving the vehicle a wide berth, its windshield looking, with all
its carnage, like an entomologists nightmare; scrambled anatomies of untold insects
had coagulated in a film so thick he could scarcely see inside. Outside, the car had its
own expression: a sad, almost ironical bumper-bent smile, with hopeful head-lamp eyes
under chromium lids, its overall aspect bashful, its paint-job an apologetic red.
Cautiously, Simon moved to the drivers-side window (a wing was cracked to allow
ventilation), and there, on the front seat, 'pretzeled' around the gearshift lever and
steering column, lay a young woman
deep in sleep
whose jacket, doubling as a
blanket, had slipped partially off her hunched up shoulders, exposing a cream-colored
blouse, its V-neck flexing laces (cats-cradle fashion) that confined the rhythmic
slump and bulge of her breasts. Hair, a lush auburn color, spread across the seat cover in
heavy curls. Her full, almost Negroid mouth was relaxed, slightly opened, with all but its
outer edges licked clean of a lipstick. Her nose was straight, without being sharp; hard
angles were, in fact, nowhere to be seen. Even her browsplucked a little to widen
the space above her eyeswere generously curved.
fascinated Simon most, however, was the sleep itself. He watched
imagining the private panoply being played beneath the placid features
quiver animating her loosely-hinged lashes
undulations like sea swells disturbing her
Is that me?
No, it cant be; she has black hairthe same as mine, but black. And, besides,
Im looking at her
From where? Somewhere in the country. At night; I see
lanterns. And carts, with strange symbols on them. Why, I wonder, does everything look so
Her breathing changed; it grew a little faster.
she answered. I answered. Who are you?
What cards? What do you mean?
in a cupboard hung by nails on the inside of a wagon door. The
cards are there, wrapped in an embroidered silk cloth. I take them to her, to this old
woman in a kerchief who apparently knows me
who has always known me? Im
barefoot and wear a delicate silver anklet.
Her face, to him, kept changing
like phases of the moon
You danced well tonight, Adrienne.
peeking in and out as through passing clouds.
Her hands are
like cracked pottery. Shes unwrapping the deck. Her fingernails are brittle, and
warped, and broken off unevenly. They rattle, like rodents bones, over the
cards dingy surfaces; the deck is worn, all dog-eared and yellowed with age. And the
pictures stare back when you look at them!
Simon wondered what the dreamer might be dreaming as he watched her
eyelids bulge under sleeps sound sedation.
fondling the cards; I feel something weirda humming sensation inside. Shes
going to tell me things. About the others. Secret things. She doesnt move her lips
when she speaks; I only hear the air wheeze in and out of her lungs; the words themselves
are silentthough they make the candle flicker.
reading, my dear.
Her eyes are
pitch-black mirrors without any irises. I see myself reflectedme, or not
me?staring while she calls a string of names.
I change with
each one, becoming different, yet the same
an actress at her vanity creating characters. Each face seems to carry its own impression
of place and time, but passes too quicklyexcept I seem to recognize every last one.
the cards, my dark one. Shuffle them well for she whose life youll lead, when black
will blush and manes exchange intensities.
The cards feel like oily skin. They breathe in my hands. Im glad to put them down.
She turns the top card over.
see! The High Priestess. You are lovely. Your body pleases all who recognize fairnessfew
though they be. And already you suspect your pulchritude's power, if ignorant of its less
superficial source. Youth unsure, beware the gloss, veneer is mockery.
understand much of what shes saying, but her voice, her soundless voice, blows
through me like wind through a bamboo flute. Each phrase vibrates so powerfully I buzz
right down to my toes.
cardplaced over the firstshows a woman petting a lion. The buzz gets even
stronger. Or is it the lion's purring? He's rubbing against my leg!
retracts its claws to stalk on stealthy feet.
concentrates on the lion, then jerks her head up to stare at me. I feel self-conscious;
Ive been enjoying him. Whatever expression I wear gives me away; she sees right
exiles the banal; strength rebounds to tame the savage beast.
More and more the car window seemed to serve as a barrier. Simon felt
once-removed from this woman-under-glass. He wanted to observe her unobstructed. The
wing was open. He had only to reach in and roll down the window. But the thought of her
awakeningpossibly panickingstayed his hand.
putting a third card down, horizontally, across the other two. It shows a boat full of
swords, with a man, a woman, and a child on board. The mans poling them toward
are happening to me again; Im getting this queasy feeling, almost like Im
seasick. I dont like it. I want to know whats going on. Who is this ugly old
woman? Shes watching me. I know she hears what Im thinking. I try to block it.
Still, I'm pretty sure she knows Im scared. Shes reaching out to touch me. I
dont want her to. I flinch as her man-size hands take hold of mine. But they
arent like I expected; theyre soft as kidskin. Im calm again. She lets
go in order to turn another card, putting it down, face-up, above the others (below to her). It
shows a man sitting with crossed arms under an archway that has cups set on top of
itnine, in all.
now. In fact, Im feeling pretty comfortable. She smiles. Im surprised how good
her teeth arestraight, well-shaped, a soft ivory color. Shes actually quite
beautiful, not nearly as old and withered as I first thought. I want to explore where we
are, but nothing seems to exist outside of what were immediately touching: the
tablecloth, for instancewhich looks like an ancient map with tea stains for
continents; that and us, in our wicker chairsplus the candle and cardsare all
that I can see.
Unable to resist, Simon cranked down
(stealthily) the driver's-side window ,
then rested his elbows on its frame. He now looked on intently (like one of Picassos Minotaurs overseeing Sleep).
I must not
have been paying attention; a new card is lying face up under the center pile. Its a
revolving very slowly
picking up speed
faster and faster
spinning. Its making me dizzy. My eyes wont look away, though; they
cant, because suddenly Im inside. Its like a merry-go-round, except all
the animals have gotten off. I see them whirling by: a dog, a snake, a bull with wings.
Im being pulled toward the center! Im there. Its like a hurricanes
eyecalm all of a sudden. I look out toward the Gypsy Woman. Her features change from
young to old, then old to young again, like in a dream. Of course! I only have to open my
eyes. I can feel the bed sheet wadded up in my fists
except its the
tablecloth. And on it theres another cardtwo people, a man and woman naked,
standing under an angel.
looks just like me. I dont recognize the man, even though he's glancing at me
lovingly. Except hes turning away, walking. I follow himI dont quite
know why. He leads me into a garden of lilies and dark red roses. He turns and points at
the ground with his left hand, while raising a sort of wand he holds in his right.
Hes changed now, dressed in a long robe. The same halo I saw over that lady with the
liona sideways number eightnow hovers above him. Im trembling. Not from
cold or from fear; the sensation is more like nerves after extra-strong coffee.
in the chair. I dont understand. A moment ago
(?) The cards now form a cross:
the mans on my left, the naked couples on my right, the nine of cups
above, the wheel is below
with another card being turnedthree swords stabbing a
This has gone
on long enough. If Im sleeping, I want to wake up. Now! I try to stand. My legs go
all rubbery. I try again with all my might. Im rising! I seem to be floating
somewhere, way above the table. I see Adrienne. Her hair glows in the candlelight.
Its changing color. She looks up. Its me! Except I have on too much makeup;
mascara cakes my lashes; my lips are ruby red; my cheeks are smeared with an ugly shade of
rouge. Hot; Im sweaty all over. And Im crying. Lord knows why; something
awful, I guess, has happened. The makeup is beginning to run, melting down my face in long
sooty streaks. My breasts! Oh, God, it feels like theyre melting, too!
at the table, clasping my chestwhich seems to be normal again. The old woman sits
without any expression. Im embarrassed sitting here with my boobs in my hands. I can
feel the blood rushing to my face. As if nothing has happened she flips another card and
places it above the wounded heart.
shaking her head. She looks at me, then at the card, then shakes her head some more. I
want to ask whats wrong, but I dont get the chance. Theres a new card
between her thumb and index finger. She holds it up in front of my eyes. It becomes a
window. I look through it and see myself walking to the edge of a pond. I must be going to
bathe because Im nudeor maybe to fetch water; Im carry a pitcher in each
hand. A dove flutters its wings in a nearby bush. I kneel on a mossy bank that squishes
underneath me like a sponge. Its nighttime, but light shines from the stars so
brightly its just like day. I feel a warm liquid sensation welling up inside of
kind of gurgling through my body
like Im the channel for some
filling me up until I cant hold it any longer.
The overflow gushes
out—I lift my arms—pouring in streams from the open-mouthed pitchers, as
if Ive been transformed; I'm a living fountain!
Simon, become anxious about the sleepers agitation (her cheeks
flushed, her parted lips reshaped by a fleeting semi-smile) forced himself away.
I hear her
elements attend thee. Dance for them, Adrienne.
from somewhere way off in the distance
for them all, my fair one, in your ovoid world.
I? The voice is more like a chirp
or cooing; it must be the dove's.
Brandys lashes quivered for a moment, then opened. With obvious
effort, she tried to recall where she was
and whoor whathad inspired
such an esoteric dream.
The sun shown boldly...
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