Oyster Boy Review 07  
  September 1997
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» Levee 67


Eva, with no questions

J. Drummey

Nothing pets in the valley. Nothing caresses or wails. Nothing hides in the crawl space, under the house in the cool clayey earth, waiting to groan in the unsuspecting ear of the babysat or the mower of lawns. What was in the valley. Fruit, mostly, and signs of green plenty. Plenty is the natural word for fecundity, the shudder of too many molecules. The kinds of molecules that hide under braces, secretly slicking the enamel underneath. Or the other braces, secretly slicking the shirt. Everything smelled well worn, with other's breaths caught in pockets and sneaked up at the breathers when they did not expect it. Little men nicknamed Nappy sucked the puckers of long dead women named Eva. Evas who didn't live with pouches. Their faces were smooth and people only imagined what they did in their spare time. Who did the Evas see on Tuesday, before their appointments with the skin sheen man. Who on Sunday morning, when they had looked terrible, but still damn good. It was common knowledge, reported in many manuals, who the Evas saw every Saturday night. There's supposed to be something about that night that makes it memorable, or noteworthy, the time when real living gets done, real lighting fixtures are installed. Or so we are led to believe. Imagine Eva, waiting at the bus station on Saturday night, for a cab to deliver her to her dingy rooms, where she listens to the bickering next door and counts the flies that aren't there. What does she twirl between her fingers.

Eva watches the baby head as it is dribbled with water. It is the way she had iced the sponge cake last week, with little lines that she gave up on. They melted together on the surface, blended into each other, and ended up running off mostly. The baby had not screamed, or made any noise at all, as the gathered watched with optimism. The baby was being welcomed into something. It would not be devoured, like the cake would, but it would probably be enjoyed as much by acquaintances. Would there be a lot of noise if Eva got baptized, or would it be quiet like this, with grit on the floor, that she would much rather roll in. Where were the question marks, and the smashed glass. She was not the god mother.

. . . and you know that he only plays Little Eva harmonicas? He says they have a better tone than the regular harp.

They're supposed to be standing around a trash can. The insides are on fire, sending stinking orange flames up, just below their palms. They are wearing stocking caps and singing a cappella. It is cold outside, but the people on the block are supposed to all turn their TVs and radios down to hear the sweet music that drifts up lazily from below their window. They are just killing time, but in a positive way. People walking home feel safer because they are singing. All except Eva, who holds her coat close to her chest and can taste her own spit. Dogs say woof woof in the street.

The elliptical host made the rounds, touching people he knew on the shoulder. He handed Doug his hand introducing it and himself. Doug managed a greeting before submerging again. Why had he come. He is not the host, obviously, but Doug, who stared again into the vibrating drink in his hand, counting the bubbles as they rose to the surface. Why had he come all over that lady in the cab, when she mentioned her ages and the way her parents drifted in and out of her life. She could not remember their faces, they were that out of focus. Why had he been so cheap as to share what should have been a quick, uneventful and private ride uptown. She squoze in, with her nose full of fur, and immediately dumped, then left. He got out and rang the bell. The place was partied, with a suspicious, rapidly decaying neatness. The nuts had only begun to fall out of their bowls, and the roof kite flying, promised at midnight, was still two hours away. Maybe she would come to the party too. She only got out a few blocks from here, tossing a bloody twenty in the driver's lap. He smiled at her, he had all his teeth. Before he could say excuse me, he had shot his wad and she was gone. Where was the erotica in/on that, with or without slashing. He knew one or two figures at the party vaguely. The host approached him elliptically, handing him a drink, a little sheba as he called it. It tasted worse than the Touch-a-Thon instant refresh drink, even though it was alcoholic. The host was already weaving, ready to be ripped off and swarmed upon by all his new friends. He had an excess of taste, and the perfect things were bound to disappear, unwrapped from their napkins in their new home bound cabs. Either way, through the ether of smoke and impossible conversation, Doug could feel nothing but the reverse sense of longing he experienced after an orgasm, that made him feel that he was done with the world for a while, whether he was drinking a little sheba or not. What would he say, anyway, if she came into the room right now, and rubbed a warm shoulder against the rug. What could he say, other than I'm sorry you can't place your parents, Eva.

The pen was all, lying overwards on the brown, tiny table. The paper, the surface, the hand, were too small for it. It only pricked and dealt out in soupy tones the prickly. When they tried to pick it up, it was heavier than a thousand elephants, and just as dizzy. It said again and again but here's the pitch.

Graham was starring in the latest film from Natural Dimensions, the company that produced movies by and about lovers of natural states (LONS), more commonly referred to as nudists. The subjects and plots were fairly pedestrian, the stuff you might see while walking down the street. Family gathered on the porch, while dad mows the lawn and mom serves lemonade from a pitcher that matches the glasses. Cept of course everyone is nude. The movies were very popular for a short time, and Graham hoped to ease into main stream cinema by making a big splash as he called it, in one of these pictures as he called it. His film, called Danger at Cedar Gulch, detailed a middle class families' hunt for gold in an abandoned mine. They flapped all over the terrain, heading in and out of the cave again and again, carrying wheelbarrows full of mysteriously cool earth, that the mom and daughter of the family picked through looking for the shiny stuff. At the end of the picture, the mom yells eureka and the dad runs out of the cave, with his business all everywhere. Natural Dimensions started heavily advertising its latest feature, and it seemed, for a few weeks, as though a new, all-nude cable channel might buy the exclusive rights. There was nothing sexual about it.

Dear Eva: The sun is not a particularly good color this year. It had started out that your mother and my mother were going to fix the nasty business between ourselves (and the sun) but it does not appear that they have the capacity to do so. I want very much to see you swimming in our pool again, or at least to see you agog at Christmas. But without the judge's permission, and a swarm of bodyguards, I don't dare approach. So let me ask you, one final time and with all the screamy voices I can muster, let me braid you and twist every part of you into a sweet pattern that I (and the sun) can believe in again.

No one pulls her in the right directions, no matter how persuasively she rape. No matter how persuasively she raps her tongue against her front teeth, imitating something. Fists come out of the air towards her teeth, but they are still bleachy and straight. What does anyone have to do to kill this girl. She is hard to get at, and her boyfriend Seth is tough and rindy. His voice rings in between puffs and he twitters you don't know Eva like I know her, even though you want to. Her shoulders are like jelly, and in them, my chin is an exclamation mark.

Eva, simpering at the sampled art. All pieces of something else that Bart, who would rather be watching something moving, has all seen before. But she is intent on staying and seeing the portrait of the baby rhino, and maybe the nose jobs that the artist gave to famous subjects throughout history. Bart knew the Blue Boy would get his treatment, as would the cherubs and madonnas. In action paintings, the artist had merely added a splash. Where did all these voices converge, the brochure read. Bart wanted to grab his crotch when he read that, but, he reminded himself, public public.

Evan, with no gestures, was mesmerizing the woman of the town. She had many friends, any one of which would have to do, but Evan was trailing her mind and butting into her lips when she spoke. She wore only cranberry to attract him (having read that this was the new color of desire) and wore her hair up (for the first time in years, the paper reported). Where the mustaches had been now there was only Evan's smooth upper lip. What was happening in the woman of the town was not uncommon, for others previous had gargled in his presence. Evan was a quiet man who kept his bulges to himself, and was easy to please and ready with promises. To catch him she might even resort to hiding briars in her hair.

Leaving one by the road side, all pink and rumbling, and the other behind the gas station in a greasy puddle shaped like a U, they continued to the next town. The pink one was discovered almost immediately, but the greasy one wasn't rescued until six hours later, when a truck almost backed over it. The next town was full of them, gray and blobby, but mostly pink and blobby, with sticky chins. It was easy to steal one, there were so many, and many saw it as an advantage to have one taken right from them in broad daylight, pink and squashy. The plan was they drove to the next town, have their way with them and then toss them out of the car. They figured they could go on like this for maybe two more weeks.

Left on Spiny creek road, left on hell's crossing, right on shoegazer, left on whatadaddy.

The grads and the dailys were two different things. The dailys sat all the time in their plastic chairs and waited for their turn to change the channel. The grads only came in on weekdays, and though they eyed the remote control, they left the privilege of its plasticity to those suffering more. Once they had mastered sharing (which the remote control tested) they were considered almost ready to enter the real world, and to wear the title of grad themselves. The kitchen was the last hurdle. Stringy spaghetti hung from the walls and no matter who was in charge that day, a thin layer of grease coated everything, especially those working in the toast corner and the pancake batter corner. Toast was a tough job, because without knives they could not scrape away mistakes. Batter was easier, but those who got that job usually performed for it. Often painters came to study the dailys for art class. The center picked up a little money, and the students got their models in action. They painted the dailys without skin, with oversized hearts, in a style perfected by a grad of the art school. The dailys could never tell who was who in the pictures, and were disturbed by them. Without faces they did not look the same. Some had organs that others didn't and some were more streaky. The light behind one was flattering. The next week he wore a white hat with a little light bulb in it. Meanwhile Gumpeter snuck out of the last stall after Rotchy checked the bathroom. He was in for the night. Though a grad, Gumpeter found it too undisciplined. He was unable to decide on anything, including when to eat or sleep, and so found himself sitting for long periods, rocking his thumbs back and forth. Gumpeter had been a batterer and had used this skill to get his first job at Pancake Inn. But this too, only brought more questions, and the syrup selection rendered him speechless. As a Pancake Inn employee he was entitled to a half price meal per shift. He never tasted one. The bathroom was big and echoey, so he waited until he was sure it was quiet to hum the old camp songs through his nose. Gumpeter went to three camps that he could remember. A fat camp, a thin camp, and a purposeless camp.

Eva came afterwards, spelling herself thin with evaluations and letters in the wrong places. Then there was Trudy, who drank everything out of my shoes. I paid her a lot of money to pretend she was dead, never mind the lip. And Clarice, with the fine insides, she must have been molded out of Teflon. And some crazy one who only went by Mickey, which she shortened to Key. Key wanted everything in the world, which is not that unusual, but she had no means to get it and no place to put it if she did. That entire period ended when they all moved away in the span of a month and suddenly, I didn't know anybody anymore.

You remember the five important questions, don't you boy-o. WHO, WHAT, WHEN, WHERE and WHY. You got them all scribbled down somewhere, doncha. WHO were you more angry at, your mother or your father. WHAT were you doing at the pier at 4 AM on a week night. WHEN did you go to work the next day. WHERE do you claim you last saw your parents alive. WHY are you a crazy mother fucker who would kill people, show up above the spot where they found the bodies, come in late for work with blood on your shoes, and tell everyone you came in contact with i just murdered my parents. If you ask him these questions, in this order, you'll have yourself a story.

Who came out of the river, scrabbling and oafen. Who tumbled up the steep banks and then collapsed gasping in the prickly reeds. Who turned their face to the water, as they expelled it, choking but filling with joy because they weren't dead. Who thought that this couldn't happen to a former president.

Eva, high-pitched, expected something else. Without an orange room and the cups laid perfectly against matching saucers, where would she put her lips. Where would her lap float, in that unbalanced room. Without the curtains blowing at two how would she know to chew or swallow. The puzzles settled in like cranes, no, pelicans with throbbing full beaks. The door was swinging because someone went through it. Who went through it when she was alone in the house and Aaron wasn't due for two weeks. What was swinging if it wasn't the door. The dead animal heads were all open mouthed with yellow teeth and dry tongues. Eva stretched out on the coach, her stretch coacher. There's no one here by that name, she yelled to the swinging door, hoping whoever was behind it would go away. A large round figure entered, glowing under her spotlight. I am the moon, It said simply and bent over, bowing. Eva gave no sign of recognition, but brought a cold piece of bacon to her lips, and then pointed with it. You have come because she drawled. He placed his card on the small table to the right of the doorway and backed out of the room.