The Dig

Matthew Pendleton

Recall the voice on the phone, weeks after Johnny’s time, picked it up in the cold corridor of the dormitory, at the time it was raining, it was night. That voice pale as machine is never forgotten.

“Don’t look off the apartment roads is all. No old stance on this Mal. Like in cot dream it began like in garden long ago you won’t remember before your time. You understood of course the post service has automobiles at their command? And was it three days before, a little girl’s sister hit by an automobile the driver as yet unknown. She saw it from the apartment Mal I don’t know off the book and all — are you making notes on all this?”

“Thanks,” I said, and he had hung up. The phone had woken me, led me from my tiny room in the dormitory, rain dusting a tiny window staring out into the night. First thing to do, I thought, was call somebody. The man on the phone had mentioned the apartment roads, and this meant St Alban’s, that highway nasty where the automobiles were still capable of moving. And that also meant the park, and the park roads with crumbly cafés and the old residences swelling into the sky.

Listening carefully in case I woke any of the other guests, I dialed the numbers I knew best. The rings called out into the mysterious telephone dark until the sleepy voice of Deliverance answered. “It’s you,” she said, “don’t worry, the Dentist is on his way.”

“I’m sorry,” I said.

“I need some sleep,” she said, and hung up. Outside the spot of rain passed, I tiptoed slowly to the entrance. Empty dark cabinets, bookshelves, rolled-up stained rugs filled all the corners. As the night passed with the rain the grey of the day steeped the place into tired old dirt, fades upon fades, piled up days in rooms in life. A mundane and impossible sort of peace was suggested, looped sparse bird song, until the doors swung open and in stepped the Dentist, bald and large and serene, followed by Schneider, in his red jacket, yellow eyes, smiling sombrely to himself. He adjusted the collars of his jacket. He hummed and tapped his foot, started to yawn and stopped halfway, then spotted me, with a simple gentle smile leaned towards the Dentist, whispering in his ear. I was about to step forward anyhow; thinking: It’s the Dentist, as always he’ll help me.


The bleached sky and the trees gently fainting white. The air outside warm and calm like around this time of this place. There was the old school ahead, and to the right from a window high up in a residence block someone was singing old gravelled folk songs. Schneider walked by my side carrying the bag they had fetched from my room. I used my stick to walk, sometimes. The Dentist led the way.

“It was figured you’d be needing help leaving,” he said. “No one can leave that place on their own. It was naïve of your contact to so assume it.” Schneider nodded and smiled.

We were on the steps leading down to the station. All around and overhead were trees, and plants grew in soil by the steps and sometimes in yellowed clay pots. In the branches a bird or two could be heard monitoring the skies through the leaves, a haze of blue of a day of a different white, incessant flutters almost like twitches. We came to the road that led to the station, wide grey ruptured pavements scattered across in the sun now pale.

We entered the empty café by the station. A polished stone interior, lit by gas lamps. We sat at a long table, ordered two coffees. The Dentist wanted nothing.

“Be straight with you Mal,” he began. “Neither Schneider or myself contacted you. In fact we’re not sure what was said. But we’re willing to help you. Tell us what you’ll be needing, and we’ll supply.”

He placed a black pouch on the table, opened it and spread the contents in a circle. Three small yellow pills, three rectangular blue ones, and four white rounded ones. I looked at them for a few seconds only, then scooped them all up and into my trouser pocket. Schneider had an anguished look of a sudden, first at the Dentist then at me.

“You’ll be soon enough in a hospital,” Schneider said to me. The Dentist dismissed this with a flourish and Schneider began smiling again.

“For the red wine I’ll leave it with you,” the Dentist said. Then he leaned more forward, and spoke quiet. “Heard tell of a meeting to be,” he said, “of your friend and some other interested party. Generally Mal, it can’t be, certain lies are bound to be said, and we know of your friend how suspicious she can get. You understand don’t you Mal?”

“Maybe,” I replied, a little wary.

“What we want to know is how they knew who to contact in the first place. I mean your friend — who contacted you is on the inside, and your friend — I mean they must have been watching you. We keep no files you understand.”

“I’m no one’s agent.”

“Aren’t you Mal?” I hesitated.

“Least I think not,” I said. I looked round. The café was still empty.

“You’re assigned to something surely.” The Dentist sat back. His chair creaked, his look at me without a smile. Schneider giggled and spilt his coffee. He made no attempt to wipe it away, some profound thought in his eyes lay almost all used up.


They’d arranged for a bus to take me to my destination. The park, St Alban’s Road, the Park Roads. But first I needed to see someone. In the end, the driver came round. Made me leave the pills on the bus, saying he’d wait. I nodded, and pocketed two of the yellow ones and a white one secret. He didn’t seem to notice.

I wandered the streets for a while. It was around 7 am. A streetlight on a corner buzzed slowly. There were the rooming houses I knew, tall with narrow balconies on the higher floors, and opposite a café with no windows. The buildings mostly grey in this area. Deliverance’s rooms at the top of a five-storey converted house, her door by a landing, a strip of red emergency light and an empty bookcase. I knocked but the door was not locked, and opened at my touch.

Deliverance and a boy I had not seen before, though maybe on the street or at the Dentist’s maybe. He looked a little like I imagined I might look, not too different anyway. Deliverance unusually was wearing yellow trousers and a red top of nice material. He wore black skirts over grey trousers, like of uptown, thereabouts. His face was pale cheek bones of shadow. His hair had of recent been cut, little tufts from an ill-looking scalp. His hands sometimes shook. Deliverance didn’t introduce him, nor speak to him the whole time. If not for his trembles he seemed on near nodding out not really there.

Deliverance offered me coffee. She had no wine, she said. I declined anyway and told her all about it. She went in another room and returned with a small bag of pale yellow, and was now wearing a yellow skirt a little torn on one side. In a grey bag by the door the crossbow was sticking out. She placed it on her back, the yellow bag hanging at her side and went out on the landing holding the door for me. I looked back at the boy half-lying on the sofa. In the shadows of Deliverance’s rooms he was hardly there, but I noticed all the same, all the time I had been standing there his big eyes had been open looking at me. As though from straight on, as though from somewhere a mirror, or a cracked system of lenses tracing a light caught from high above the broken place. There was this light in my eyes then say at least. Deliverance closed and locked the door.


Among the tenement blocks and the collapsed car park short necks of lilies or something white like that. The sun then still shining, it was around 8:15 am. The bus was waiting.


She seemed distracted, I can’t say excited because such a thing doesn’t suit Deliverance. Something she’d been waiting for though. I understood. It had been some months.

Recall the music played on the bus was pop and female vocals something like a doll. The bus driver’s foot moved up and down, not exactly in rhythm to the music, I noticed, or in rhythm but delayed. He was of strict discipline and obedience his eyes somewhere on the up with speed. Gave me the pouch back when he had laboured parking by St Alban’s station, though I had already ate the yellow ones, and the depas Deliverance had supplied me. My thanks to the bus driver were mute, and getting off I felt the eyes, the eyes that I recall were like the Dentist’s eyes and the eyes of prefects in dormitories, schools, uptown shops, like something sharp and nasty made you feel transparent, and felt like school. Was it then we had been watched on these streets from the beginning?

Off the bus Deliverance was again more collected. Her eyes looked at mine and I took her hand. For a moment. We stood on the road the bus departing the ruins to our right to the left the rebuilt apartment blocks, futons draped over the sides of balconies, grown-up children preparing to use the street, the mould of the odour, of the home the mother and fathers, whatever else waiting near conceived. And first thing needed was red wine.

There was a café we both knew of at a corner by the apartments used by old factory workers and their sons. It was near 9 am. Near here a still-in-use swimming pool where a two-year-old had been befriended and then executed, some nine-year-olds in the field of experimenting with their behaviours, or some such, which many myself included thought was fine, or good, or not good. That it doesn’t really matter, sadly, when all is said and done, fine, good. Imagine the descent of blankets of white depas, on tile floors, in puddles, to explain things, chills and quiet meetings in remains, what was left moved through in street-time, brandishing black coffee and red wine; unusual bouquets were not found in this area. Neither us, usually.

“What’s doing then,” said someone when the body was featured in the papers, and it was true for they stood all as though blinded by a light never seen before, though yes it came all the time, and each time they would forget and delight or near-delight in what they forgot.

One day I said to Deliverance, “I don’t understand.”

“Mal,” she said to me, and then stopped, because there was no point after. Remember some stage in there, confirming the useless feeling, and so from then on, we are entitled to some weakness am sure of it.


Approaching the café we could see St Alban’s Road, the wide place of gravel, among blockades of residence stubs. No automobiles but the signs were apparent. A girl in a red skirt and what I thought was pink hair was crossing, looking carefully her left and her right, then hitching up her skirt to run across the road, and continue towards the park behind the collapsed apartments. I stood somewhat gone, though already maybe I was, and Deliverance who was at the entrance to the café looked back at me and smiled thinly, though she knew I think as always she had the sky worn a little whiter.

The café with bright lights and plastic tables had white paint on the walls re-applied of many times. I sat a little awkward though it was empty. The wine came from uptown and was a pleasant surprise. I took more of the pills from the pouch and Deliverance handed me some lorazepam that were yellow. She smiled she knew my states that would result. Our drinking red wine on abandoned motorways at dawn, finding factory rooms by the dockside, remains of the oblique machines and apparatus in corners and the dust. A mirror by a desk and an aged professor’s thick-lensed glasses. The remains of places we’d move into, trying to replace those had gone before, always uncertain how they had gone about it. Johnny’s room after he had gone; recollect the phone, opened envelope, looking around thinking Room 2 locked the perfect scene? What white so close in his eye that time caused the dents in the walls where he had thrown the chair, had broken the round green wine table, I was so close to seeing too. Or was it like that at all?

“It was something like an annunciation, that time in the park. In reverse. You remember Mal?” I nodded. We started on the red wine both of us. It was like times before. “Johnny knew where we would go that day. This has been done before, he said. Of course, but we used to enjoy going the park, the garden, I said. Then, I didn’t quite catch his meaning. You saw it too didn’t you.” Deliverance looked at me carefully.

The floor of the place was a yellow grey, like a colour collected over time.

“And now Mal, what’s doing now?” Her eyes held an ancient smile that knew the ages. That smiled in a firm helpless state, resolute. “Do you have a sense of the permanence of it all? Right now things are very — I think it best to go.”

Deliverance took my hand lightly and we walked out onto St Alban’s Road. The tire tracks and so on were obvious. I stood out in the middle of the road, Deliverance looking nervously left and right. The shades of tall rotting high-rise blocks surrounded us, walls mottled grey around blank windows. The sun to the right approached behind the cement somewhere, managed a losing shining path. To the left a figure lapsed from stillness on a balcony. White curtains behind swept into the apartment. Had the sense of an intelligence watching. I nodded to Deliverance, left the road; we found the entrance to the apartments and walked up the stairs. She was glad to leave the road, so much of the murder totals she was thinking I am sure.

A man wrapped in a plastic overcoat mumbled something passing us going down the stairs. We were on the fourth floor. I found the right door quickly, knocked. Deliverance slinked a little away. Corridors were hard grey, no lights were working. A thin tall woman opened the door. Immediately she leaned against the frame, scratching at her eyes that were a little red. “Who are you,” she asked, a voice framing each word in hard tones but eloquent like from somewhere out of town.

“It’s in regards to the accident with an automobile three days ago, involved …”

“My daughter. Four days ago,” she corrected. She stepped back, I noticed some marks on her leg high up by blue panties under a white shirt. Nipples were there waiting to be seen. “Seems you better come in,” she said. I found in my trouser pocket the Stanley knife Deliverance had given me on the bus. The woman turned and walked into the apartment, showing the blue string of the panties lost between buttocks, veiled by the thin white shirt. I followed, closing the door, seeing to my left the open door to the bathroom. Separate taps for the hot and the cold.

I stood a little uncertain at the entrance to a low-set lounge, cushions on the floor, a few bean bags. She turned round and smoothed her shirt collars.

“This your habit, to call on little girls?”

“Not often,” I said. “Not to call a habit.” She fell into one bean bag, found some stockings nearby and rolled them up her legs. A few glittering things hung from the ceiling. The kitchen was through a door to the left. The balcony was through sliding glass doors behind the woman. It was hot, some sweat was on her skin.

“My daughters anyway are not in.” The stockings on she stretched her legs out and shifted her seat. There was a glimpse of pubis. “They would not be interested.” I stood a little more then sat down on the nearest cushion, crossing my legs.

“She’s okay now?”

The woman scratched her eyes. In the light of the room they were obviously red, sore. She answered me and her legs opened fairly wide.

“Oh she dyed her hair. Child’s reaction to trauma. It looks no good.”

“She wasn’t injured.”

“Lost her hat that’s all. For some reason couldn’t find it after.”

“What kind of hat?”

“Usually I buy her clothes. This wasn’t a nice hat at all. A drink.” She waved a hand, indicating beside me. A discarded skirt encircled a three-quarter-bottle of red wine. Two red mugs were next to it. I poured her one, the rest for myself. “A kind of gentle man,” she grimaced. We drank with only sounds of outside in the rooms, some tremble of a lift shaft, a child far away in play. The wine over, I handed her some depas. She buzzed the TV on a moment by means of a remote. It was a distant shot of a bed, some figures on it. Switched off, and I wondered how old she may be. She scratched at her stomach, where there were also red marks. Her eyes regarded me all over, narrow.

“The hat though she found in the park some weeks ago. I would not have her wearing something she’d found about, it’s bad enough living here. She only wore it that day, it looked like a traffic sign.”

“What colour was the hat?” I asked her leaning back watching her nails on her stomach.

“Well it was dirty wasn’t it. But the day before, she washed it, it turned out to be black and yellow. But old, still too old.” She stretched her legs her panties rode up, I could see something of between her legs. And the traces of an eczema. She saw my eyes and did another grimace. “Terrible isn’t it. It’s the weather I suppose. At night it gets better.” The sky outside was now dull. I wondered how much time had passed. She noticed my state close to getting up and brought out a box from beneath some girls’ panties. She patted it lightly. Her eye was near winking at me. Felt a sudden nausea.

“Not the end yet is it?” she said. For a moment I placed my head in my hands. “I have to be going,” I said from this position. I heard her laugh for the first time. The sun came back in some respects, I could see the sky through the window through the spaces between my fingers. It was not night yet. When my head came back she was not on the bean bag. She was beside me, a hand on my shoulder, another pressing against my forehead. There was some feeling came over me, but I could smell more her cunt and other aches receding. The ghost of that with other resemblances of tranquil pill, other pale couplings, machines the other machines. Why would a god exist and what would it do? Why would something something and what would something something why. For in this respect nothing changed, all this thing remained, some emergence static, cut out onto time, unimpressed by notions, what’s this, holy, and so on. Through it all was her cunt, and that she was wearing only stockings, panty, a very sparsely buttoned white shirt. Her hair was of a diminished red.

“Breasts,” she said, parting the shirt and showing one. We were drunk and in that kind of time. We could have sat there for hours without moving. Only her breast my eyes, her hand my forehead her panty of a little damp. I thought, I’ve seen her somewhere before and is this not always the case, in a basement or some kind of club. I’d mention that light as well, often glimpsed, its habit of pause, you’ll see in sine waves of such as dream.

“Hmm,” she interrupted final. “Wound.”


We came to the park around the time the sky grew dark. We were equipped with digging equipment of the Dentist’s. The park was the same as some weeks ago. There was the wall, and the single tree beside it. Towards the train tracks the ground sloped down and then to steps to the tunnel which went on into the long avenue stretched across half the city. Again the windows of vacant high-rise no doubt noted us. We walked about and came to somewhere like the middle of the park; I started to dig without much interest. We were both still after the sound of an automobile passing on St Alban’s Road. It began to feel cold, I wished for some cardigan. Deliverance hugged herself but maintained her poise, the blonde hair rushed to dark under low clouds. Far away a violinist started up a buzzing waltz. And a collection of words seemed to stretch down endless. A refrain caught with us. I stopped trying to dig in the grim soil and tin cans.

“This is no use,” Deliverance said. “What we doing here?” As if in answer Schneider appeared from the steps under the tracks carrying a plastic bag. His red jacket flapped in the wind, he held an umbrella tentative under one arm. He waved to us. I put down my shovel while Deliverance let out a small moan in the wind. “Thought we could vanish,” she said, “I was wrong.”

Under his red jacket Schneider wore a yellow or yellowing shirt. It was buttoned to the neck but appeared loose.

“See it yet people?” he said, rambling towards us as though a walker outside city. Deliverance looked to me. I shook my head.

“When was it we were last here?” he said. He grinned. “There was a drumming in the air. It was rain. There was a storm?” He handed us the plastic bag, full of wine and mugs. Deliverance and I set about drinking and Schneider stood watch. With a slight look upwards he sighed, held an arm up, the umbrella popped open, rain began to fall. The park, all around us we could see, the garden, descended into shadows. The rubbish I had dug up wilted in black damp patches and sank into mud. We were quickly soaked but anyway stood there, we had the wine, that we covered with our hands, and hunched over.

“You haven’t looked,” he eventually said, “over there.” He was pointing to some ground in the shadow of what maybe was the wall, or the tree that was leaning. I rested on my shovel after finishing the wine.

“What’s this about anyways?” I complained.

Schneider’s soft worn face looked out amongst the rain while lights of a solitary carriage passed on the tracks behind him, white passes of light descended, his face flashed into stillnesses under stretch of the umbrella, in the gloom we stood in, his nose, his chin, still black eyes. “Our research is near done,” he managed above the train. “I myself am somewhat overcome.” The grey train’s blast lost in the still of the rain but the white lights carried on in the dark now receding into the docklands. Schneider stretched shoulders, the loom of umbrella swayed thickly. His free hand, beginning some action, failed to move more, paused at the umbrella’s perimeter.

“If you knew who the contact was,” I said, “why didn’t you tell?”

“This was foretold long ago,” Schneider admitted, “but that doesn’t mean so much we knew. Like it was that someone, white sticky hair crazed walk on the streets needed a stick, entwined in eyes, of thought rumination of types hereto unknown, in deep illness, in brain wormed with holes linked with glorious, some said glorious expansive solutions, face as of slow rain on grey days; was seen less and less, and eventually never appeared on these streets again. But what does that tell you?”

“What of Johnny then?”

Schneider stopped face forward-jutted with a smile.

“The construct of some place in their jealousy of that of some place,” he began, “but cast downward onto earth, such is that thing, perfect, of higher skies, that here will certainly be damaged. But what of those in that more usual mould?” Schneider explained to us in the rain, their expansive social structures have changed to a reduced secretive lifestyle, methods of prey and capture have been refined to the most necessary actions only. Their movements have slowed down. Homes have been made smaller. One hundred thousand generations later they are radar ghosts like image persistence like on gradual fade-out, of that form that was meant for them. Their electricity cannot be seen against the light of the sun, which is why the bombs are designed, to be held up, collapsed wastes pressure into the disasters, their disasters are theirs and mine and tenfold, manifest grins of intelligences dropped into the skies, shells of cities age and crumble beneath into centres of panic that feedback all miseries into their loops of constructions incessant and crumbling until forever from the word go. Their skulls rendered thin with obsessions stretch and vaunt and moan, aching into infinite recess as is what thought is called, or stubborn attributes of decay and affluence, that is resources both used and understaffed, more likely the forms that grow old in tenement lofts with smiles, processed into armies and passed away to lie plotting over the cancers and eradicating virus waiting for those left behind or who passed on ahead, who have not fallen yet, but who are leaning. Instruments that perceive fragments conclude the imagined whole to be inevitably beyond understanding.

We had appeared to reach a conclusion, in a conference in this park. The rain in the garden. “I’m being very coy though,” Schneider said, “later means must, things could get dirty.”

Would coy be connected with innocent, were they close, was what had just been said innocent? To stand tall of such as life then wilt in shame. Schneider stood again silent his face grey in the atmospheres of the rain.

“Now listen,” he said, “dig over there, by the wall. Johnny is dead. Or at least that is what we are trying to presume.”

All of a sudden those sad airs found me. Not so much I have to say. I mean more the old sullen things, am sure you know what I mean. So we dug where he told us. I wouldn’t say he grinned or otherwise showed pleasure. I give him some credit, this particular one. He directed us where to dig and that is all.


Johnny would modulate his clothing, what fashioned him through his days, around one fixed item, enhanced with found things, until an outfit was gathered in orbit. I found myself clenching my teeth in some outward terrible moment. It’s hard to tell though, what we found in the ground. Unmistakably some of Johnny’s clothes. Johnny’s clothes? Now I hesitate. We found rags covered with soil and insects. The rain will have helped this. Why we found Johnny’s clothes in the garden? I kept wondering silently.

“What was Johnny but a boy?” Schneider goaded unintentionally. In the rain we couldn’t answer. Obviously, it was not his face we remembered anymore; we remembered his clothes. Deliverance most especial, she who had often removed them, I were wont to suspect. Not all Johnny’s clothes were buried here in this garden. There were only three items, and each a component of different outfits, so that maybe we were reminded of these other clothes that would make up the combination, collecting in ghostly huddles almost bringing with them the rooms and bars and streets of Johnny. Schneider maybe saw none of this, unless he was aware of Johnny’s delectation of choice, the range of colours he could make around the one colour, his most choice colour. I don’t think Schneider was aware, but I can often be wrong. Like had I known about a connection between the Dentist and the dormitory? It had escaped me until this morning. And what else besides.

We laid the three garments by the shallow hole. The displaced soil was grey and claylike soft and oozing. The rain paused a little, but then continued, Schneider held his umbrella over the clothes and we all tried to fit under it best we could. Our eyes were not up to identifying the clothes in their original state as just dug from the ground. Schneider thought we could let the rain clean them, but I pointed out this would only help the mud permeate more of the material, and after a while Schneider said softly, Oh yes, and nodded his head his eyes far away and understanding. Also the general shadows of the climate and the umbrella altered the forms and colours laid out on the ground. Then it must have been Deliverance who first identified with confidence these particular items of Johnny’s repertoire.

There was first of all a long-sleeved yellow T-shirt, recognised because of the letters sprayed on in red paint saying something like TV the significance of which none of us understood. “What did he mean by that?” Schneider asked and Deliverance and I shook our heads. These letters were still visible under a wash of thin black mud. To explain things, the yellow was more near faded than bright, it was far from red and near white, but still definitely a yellow. This was the preferred colour of Johnny. This yellow T-shirt was most likely to be seen with a white and blue shirt with voluminous sleeves and some kind of dirtied grey trouser.

Second was a fairly ordinary black jacket, with a stiff collar that could be easily turned up nice and rigid, and sleeves with no buttons and a rip on the left arm that could have been down to this place of rest of the last few weeks or could have been Johnny’s doing. None of us could remember.

The third was harder to identify. It was long and soft, with little scraggly ends. Darkened with mud, still some mauve material could be seen. “It’s a mauve scarf,” Deliverance said and seemed pleased with herself. She wrapped it round her arm not neck because it was dirty. I seemed to recall Johnny wearing this, and Deliverance’s pleased eyes and hands made me believe myself right. But all three existed better in memory, or in whatever memory could be usefully made up at the time, to accommodate all these things. That could forsake rain, and dirt. And Johnny walking, down under the tracks, along the avenue. The face of course confused, better blank, or, in a field of white light, where can be seen his image standing, but so blind, not the details, which are lost.


Schneider put a hand on my shoulder. It was a little cold. We walked towards the tracks under Schneider’s umbrella, sometimes I was smacked lightly in the face by his expansive red jacket as it billowed. I looked back; the black jacket lay by the hole, in front of the broad dim form of the wall. Schneider had taken the yellow T-shirt, Deliverance had taken the mauve scarf. No one wanted the black jacket. It could possibly have been Johnny’s favourite item. With the distance and the rain, after a while, I couldn’t see it anymore.

Schneider bought us some wine before leaving us, nice two from Tibet and a Yugoslavian I knew well. “It’s in the systems, I’m talking of,” Deliverance had said, lamenting, not knowing what to do. “We are in them now, or have been for weeks.” Some time after, we were drinking red wine, and maybe even some tea. Deliverance strictly had no milk or sugar, but I it was unfortunate required both, and in fair amounts. After stirring my tea and handing it to me she spoke some more.

“I’m having a feeling we need to get out,” she said. I looked around her rooms. Everything seemed fine. But I asked anyway, was she moving again.

“Don’t mean that,” she said. She looked at my cup of tea, which was on the table. “Don’t you want it now?”

“It’s a little hot still,” I explained. I glanced at the phone which was useless since the lines went down some time ago now. Only certain phones seemed to work, I remember seeing someone using one, used one myself occasionally. But Deliverance’s phone did not work. For a while she did not speak, head down in thoughts she would not express.

I had been seeing a doctor recent, or so he declared that was what he was, a thin tall man with mismatched shoes. At the same time I was starting to weigh a little less. The medicines were suspect but I went along with it, because medicine was scarce, Deliverance even could not contact in the ways she used to. Their effects varied but were of interest always. And we had recourse to other things, distilled spirits and orange juice and nutmeg boiled in saucepans. Depas had gone a shade more forgotten every day. Automobiles were more frequent, as were locomotives. Cafés had closed down, however some high-rise blocks were being adapted for this industry.

“You seem thinner,” Deliverance would say casually at times as though remembering something like where her keys were. And then a brief rebuttal. We were a shade more forgotten each day. There’s nothing to it.

Where would we go later that day? The Dentist’s would seem perhaps uncomfortable. “Are you to return to the dormitory?” Deliverance asked. “Not if I can help it.” Other places to go: a place known as The Dante in a basement section of a nice avenue. The seating and such is all in ever-diminishing circles and below at the centre is usually a live performance mainly electronics but I saw a cellist once in inspired acts of languid primitive lines that led to his scraping his cello along the dirt floor and uttering solemn yells as the candles on the tables went out one by one. He could beget a darkness of an awful beauty, an acquaintance used to say. Something along those lines. But there would be no one there now, the places emptying fast.

“It may be time to move on, are there other cities?” I couldn’t answer. I refused to drink the tea anymore, and began the red wine. Deliverance’s rooms, the few I had seen, were all full of light from windows diffused by net curtains and thin veils and mirrors cleverly placed but still were dark in atmosphere, and now there was the shroud of the sky outside getting in somehow. The sun like yellow gas spread everywhere. I still occasionally missed the old damp house of Deliverance. All we could do was drink more wine. I swallowed the pills from the doctor. They were yellow. We enjoyed our laconic states in the dusky room.


In various guises I saw the acts of creation, when staring at the interiors of the apartment or the bathroom. More people had come, I knew none of them. They were strangers often stood tall in long coats I had never seen before. I sat in a corner looking out the window, the hybrid-language neon often now dead, or a flicker every minute, and the sound of a bottle rolling away down a side street could not be seen. I drank wine. A stranger had brought with him some depas; it was gone all too quickly. There were not as many people as Deliverance had expected. She asked where is someone often and the people would always say they’ve gone, gone where she would ask, but no one would say. We didn’t really know anywhere else but here. I realised we hadn’t been getting out enough. I told this to Deliverance behind a mauve veil; her smell was soft, she agreed with what I said. Come on come on, I said, We have to get out. I lost my memory and found myself in the bathroom. I undressed and ran the water. There was a razor I tried to disassemble. I joined the people in my undressed state, sat down, a little bruised but that was all.

I understood these people, I didn’t need to know who they were, in their long coats. Some wore grey hats. One sat in Deliverance’s armchair, hands resting on a cane between his legs. He was of indeterminable age but his eyes under his hat were like silver. He seemed to crouch as he sat. Deliverance introduced us.

“This is Calm Tin Mr,” she said, and he nodded long and low and spoke in a drawn-out gutter voice.

“Did I ever tell you about my nephew? What a crisis that was? We are circling around something, he would say, in our lives. What thing John? I would ask him, but he wouldn’t answer, but would hold his stomach, like this —” The grey man put his hands to his stomach both connected like a cradle, holding the stick with his legs pressed together. “— I’m hurting uncle, he would say, and I would give him his painkiller. He knew it all though, did John. He disliked automobiles. It was interesting. They ate up the age uncle, he would say. He was funny. What’s up John, I’d say to him, you wig already?” Calm Tin Mr squeezed laughter out his thin frame.

“When was this?” I asked him, kneeling on the floor naked.

“Oh this was years ago,” he drew out, looked at me straight with a purpose. “That was before your time,” he said. I nodded. So did he. The night gained tiny lights outside the window from the multitude of rooms of the city. A boy with black-rimmed glasses and a little amount of curly hair looking infinitely serious but benign appeared, sat on the arm of Calm Tin Mr’s chair. Calm Tin Mr waved a thin arm at him.

“You meet this boy called Bracket?” he asked. The boy peered at me short-sighted and smiled.

“You believe in life after the body?” he asked in a slow careful voice, but full of excite. “To leave us, the many empty, the vessels left behind?” The old grey man shook his head at this with an amused diffidence.

“Ah no,” he said. “What’ve you dug up? That would not sit down with any board member I know. How many times I have to say?”

“Most times you say it,” said Bracket.

“John used to say,” Calm Tin Mr said, “we’re in a place so mean, we’re the bad animal. Our foundations have crumbled but we keep on anyway, lured by the promise of money, pushed on by greed and the promise of machine, pushed on by laziness. We are stopped dead in these gutters. We must crown anarchy, we must equip the minds, the mini-states, with weapons, enough to disable the supermind, the state. But I never intended to have the last word. Such things are beyond myself. And I only passing on what others passed to me.” He sat back, looked tired. “A shame and everything but what is a man to do?” he finished. The boy called Bracket turned eagerly to me.

“You see it in the systems. That’s what it is.” It was hard to understand. The discourse garnered some electric sensation. “Mind,” said Calm Tin Mr, “he’s still learning.”

Heads of certain businesses and services have their jealousy of those in lines of servitude, and in them downward on earth, cast in lines they sent out, such are stood, or more say trapped, their workers, always they for us below the skies, cast down in their image, workers keeping a machine they need for money going, in those heads’ notions they are pedestrians at birth, despite our protests and our methods that have not yet seen action. Heads of certain businesses in terrible states recall them being built working, and their lines are not so obviously traps, they have workers keeping a machine on gradual decline sustained by coffee all age and crumble, there are glimpsed back all miseries into the main machine shaft all crumbling until forever what is dreamed of is soft blue phased into safe districts they can’t remember those brains rarely mention. But there still they can glimpse yet of what they have, always, dreams of.

“Try to explain more concrete,” advised Calm Tin Mr. The boy called Bracket did his best.

Turns out if the postal service needs to explain to the situation committee as regards its function the issue of automobile usage and manning is of contention. It must be noted automobiles are rare, mostly from out of town, and postal transmissions occur only in exceptional circumstance, such as the head of a business must transmit some statement of error or accomplishment, mostly both to save postage, generally to an employee or the situation committee, and rarely to such as is in a higher position relative to said head of business, but not involved as such in said business for a name to appear on material such as lists or a collation of minutes or invitation to a factory, to reference more olden times, and such names do not appear are not as such written down, no one knows these names they would never be said, all more like a dream soft blue like a light circled about before remaining forgotten, like the name of who above the Dentist, it has been postulated. (The night was almost complete in Deliverance’s rooms.) The committee will no doubt question the need for automobiles, and the postal service will recount all this but the committee will infer “you are not an emergency service,” but the postal service will state “we are an emergency service” and the committee will hear this and deliberate and later be satisfied. They will ask about salaries and whether the stationed drivers are receiving food and amphetamine or derivatives, there will always be questions the committee can think of to ask. “Is there a need for your service. Are there more uses of your service. Is there enough competition. Is there enough success. Is there a regime of fitness for those in industries. Is there a purpose being served. Are health and safety standards acknowledged and utilised. Is there an age of those whose names we do not know. Are there purposes to be served. Is there enough failure. Is there a need for service. Are there complications such as involving who services who. Is it a question of starvation, a question of you must fail eventually?”

If you have not had enough of the Dentist then kindly let us refer you to “A Johnny Parenthesis.“