A Beehive Arranged on Humane Principles
So can you predict the exact date on which the “pearly” rain will fall? Are you a slave to such quirks of clairvoyance? Is there a testament, if you don’t think that’s too strong a word, for or against behavior of that sort? Would red flowers or white, or pink for that matter, be any the less useless to you? Or their motions, such as they are, in the wind? Speaking of wind, do you remember those long-ago parades, held in gales of lilacs, so it seemed, or were they actually merely lilac butterflies? And do you recall how the children and their mothers aped the yokels who marched in those Midwestern uniforms and plumes? Weren’t they always the dead white of sails, or snow, of, in short, winter as you once experienced it? Do you think of the usual creaking boughs and bitter frosts when you hear that “music”? Wasn’t it on one of those festive days that you butchered the peacocks? Those you claimed lived behind the house of the girl with the out-of-tune guitar? Didn’t you tell me her name was Regina, Regina Lake, or Regina Star? Now that I think of it, weren’t you and she the closest of friends when she was still a virgin? And isn’t she now the Regina Lake or Star whose sex life is the subject of the monographs on perversion that you collect? She and you flew pigeons off the roof, didn’t you? I remember, do I not, you telling me that she asked you the meaning of “gobbet,” or was it the derivation of “radish”? You say that was April Starre? Why would you think of April Starre when Regina looked, not like her, but exactly like Ursula? Speaking of whom, why did you insist on calling her really beautiful buttocks ugly? And why did you persuade the other women to give her a box of candles and bananas? And why did Sheila Christian blush and crack her gum when you arrived? In the photograph you have of Sheila and Ursula, who is the blonde asleep or in a faint or perhaps even dead beneath the hydrangea? Why do women to whom you show this disconcerting photograph mysteriously call that position a “malady”? Why, for instance, do you say, “With a malady like that the only cure is Emperor Ointment”? And in the other photograph, isn’t that you doing the Tiger Hump? And why do all of you, you, Regina, April, Ursula, and Sheila, insist that Jesus was at the party? And then why do you agree that, despite all evidence to the contrary, he arrived wearing a sleeveless pink dress? Weren’t you wearing a sombrero like the sojourning Mexicans? Or were they really blackamoors whose curious taste for the fugue depressed all of you? And the turbans beneath their sombreros frightened you? But didn’t they kill the parakeets to assure you of their good intentions? Didn’t they appear the next morning in slippers and dressing gowns to tell you and anyone else who would listen of sunshine and cognac and the coconuts of Florida? Before we go on, would you like some chocolate? Or would you prefer to sit under a California umbrella and have a glass of orangeade and gin to chase the blues? Perhaps you’d like a free pass to the Bijou to see The Janitor’s Waltz? Seriously, as they say, why are you waiting this way, so hopelessly, really, for Ramón? Do you believe, despite all you’ve learned, that he’s different from other drummers? Didn’t he make you publicly “perform” on a bed covered with white carnations? Didn’t you have to eat cauliflower ice cream for him? Didn’t he make you sleep on bare porcelain tiles? Don’t you consider that being laced, day after day, into that tiny corset was an indication of his true feelings for you? And while you and the Mexicans acted those lewd roles for the camera, didn’t Ramón sit there blithely eating peas? You say that he sent you bouquets? But didn’t he give Ursula the pearl-and-ruby necklace he’d bought for you? Weren’t you bitterly hurt when he took April and Regina to Barbados on what he called a “double honeymoon”? Don’t you think that there’s a reason that he makes you live on Willow Way? Don’t you find it strange that a loathsome dwarf constantly spies on you? Didn’t your very blood sicken when you first realized that there wasn’t a crevice of your body that the little monstrosity hadn’t seen? Why do you pretend not to know that he’s always there, watching and masturbating? Why do you play those madrigals every night? Why do you threaten to call Connecticut, where you don’t know a soul, with the news? Why do you continue to believe that the cinnamon cantharides tablets and the sex toys that you get every month are from Ramón? Don’t you ever see the misshapen beast watching you in your bath? Why did you let Ursula hide in the family chapel? Didn’t you find it odd that Ramón asked Regina to pose for that “emperor” in nothing but pearls and high heels and carrying a tiny Japanese parasol? Didn’t she tell you that she was persuaded with hashish nougat? Were you the beautiful brunette rapt amid the flowering dogwood? Or were you naked in that copse of almonds? Why did Sheila name the sparrow that you gave her “Lesbia”? She was living then in the mauve-brick tenement you own, wasn’t she? Why did the milkman deliver free ice cream to you and to her every Saturday? Didn’t you say that his name was Bud or Billy Starr? Weren’t you, during your early days on Willow Way, playing the oboe with the Sapphic Apricot Romance Orchestra? Didn’t the leader affect a steel helmet and pretend an interest in antique gramophones in order to seduce you? Wasn’t she the woman who duped you with some absurd story about a lost canto of Don Juan? Why on earth did you buy her a football for Christmas? And didn’t you and Ursula buy her a blown-up color photograph of a plague of locusts? Do you still think that there was a certain “chemistry” between the two of you? Didn’t she give you a thousand dollars to “pose,” as she called it, in some expensive lingerie she’d bought for you? And didn’t you turn white as a ghost when a nude actor suddenly joined the two of you? Why did you, some few years later, regularly refer to the obscene exhibition that occurred that night as a “rendezvous”? And don’t you now term the photograph one of crickets, not locusts, as if it somehow mattered? And why do you maintain that the geraniums had a spicy smell? Why do you so dislike Sundays?
Is it because he claims that Ursula “simply adores” Sundays? Don’t you think that he carried off that geranium boutonniere very well, considering? Didn’t she write, by the way, a book of poems called The Red Cricket? Am I correct in recalling that she got a lot of unwanted, so she said, publicity over an obscene sonnet in it called “The Rendezvous”? He was then still what those stupid fags refer to as an “actor,” wasn’t he? Anyway, she never seemed to stop droning on and on about his “fucking ghosts,” isn’t that what she called his friends? Didn’t she sell his beloved Gilbert Chemistry Set for a dollar and a half? Isn’t it unbelievable, especially after that night, that she called him a locust? Didn’t she play football for a time with that lesbian team, the Canto Cunts? She’d tried to get Sheila up to her apartment to “see” that rusty old gramophone she picked out of the trash, didn’t she? But wasn’t he still living in the apartment then, trying to make a quick buck on those defective pith helmets? Ah, the romance of sophisticated fiction, eez eet not wondairful? Bud Starr, or was his name Buzz, came on the scene about that time with his apricot-orchard and antique-oboes scams, didn’t he? With that brain he should have been a milkman, or a congressman, right? Do you remember that he thought a tenement was a building that had ten apartments? But she’d listen to the idiocies coming out of that sparrow brain and love it all, no? Do you remember the almond-juice scheme he had going, and the whole demented routine he’d worked out to ship plastic dogwood blossoms to the Spanish Sahara? Didn’t she once make a, Christ help us, nougat stew so that he could enter some goddamned contest or other? Jesus, I think she was better off when she posed for Sex Chapel in nothing but pearls and high heels, holding that yellow paper parasol, don’t you? All she ever really wanted were her hot baths and her little wind-up toys and her cinnamon lozenges, right? Personally, I don’t think she ever gave a damn about that eighteenth-century farmhouse in Connecticut, do you? And then when he stuck her with that phone bill and liquor bill and the unpaid insurance and ran off with Emily Madrigal? Didn’t she have, by the way, the nickname of “the crevice,” as in, careful sport, you might not be able to climb out? And then if I’m not mistaken he came on with the me and Lorenzo routine, the old dark secret blood, right? She was being “courted,” so to speak, by that dwarf, what’s his name, by that time, wasn’t she? And she’d changed her name to Ruby Willow, right? Who was it who said he’d give a month’s pay to be a fly on the wall during that honeymoon? Do you remember the wedding presents she got from the groom’s friends, you’ll pardon the expression, the bouquet of pears, oranges, and boiled shrimp, that porcelain corset, the fifty-gallon drum of broccoli ice cream, and oh, what else, the case of Carnation evaporated milk? And the short-armed drummer with the band, Ramón Mastiachi, wasn’t he? Didn’t he say he’d played the part of Andrés Jones, the typing champion, in the road company production of The Janitor’s Waltz? Didn’t he keep calling it a “bijou” of a role, the fucking cretin, a “perfect bijou”? Anyway, when they returned, didn’t she say that they’d lived for the whole three weeks on Rumanian chocolates and coño, whatever that is, orangeade? And do you remember that huge blue umbrella she brought back? From Florida, she said, Florida? She wore absolutely nothing but evening gowns after that, didn’t she? While he, I can’t remember his name, took to wearing those pointed slippers, poulaines do they call them? And do you recall those unbelievable turbans he wore, with the parakeet-feather plumes? Didn’t she, probably in desperation, spend her allowance arranging for the première of Regina Lake’s “Blackamoor Fugue”? I’m almost certain that’s the same piece of pretentious crap that she originally wrote “for autoharp,” Christ be merciful, called “Sombreros of Rage,” wasn’t that it? She was a knockout in those tight dresses though, even the one that somebody called “rube pink,” wasn’t she? Wasn’t it right after the ringing silence that greeted her “masterwork fugue” that she claimed that Jesus had appeared to her in a tiger-skin loincloth? And right after that, right! she and Ursula, I should say Ruby, started that magazine, Emperor Sundae? Didn’t she, or they, publish Dennis MacMalady’s ridiculous story, “Ointment,” in the first issue? Isn’t that the chef-d’oeuvre in which he has the world-weary blonde, clutching her hydrangeas to her bosom, “look down on the traffic far below”? He said at a party that that was one of his Christian stories, didn’t he, the bastard? In contradistinction to what he called, the dumb bastard, the stories of his decadent phase, “Gumbananas”and “Who Can Hold a Candle to Her Buttocks”? Wasn’t that the party at which he insulted Ursula, Ruby, and Regina and locked himself in the bedroom with April June May? Didn’t he say he married her, as I recall, because she was the only woman he’d ever met who knew the meaning of “gobbet” and the derivation of “radish”? And, oh God, what about her sister, Stephanie, wasn’t she the one who advocated sex with pigeons? Didn’t she write that best-seller, Virgin Lakes and Pure Stars? And Dennis, oh yes, I’m remembering all this now, didn’t he seduce Regina by reading those treacly passages about guitars around the old campfire and the cry of the wild peacock and the frost on the boughs, the winter silence and snow and all the rest of that shit? Wasn’t he insufferable riding in that China-wagon with the madras sail? And when he wore that Tyrolean hat with the little orange plume and the button that read YOKEL? Didn’t he always say that if he could make the butterflies and the lilacs like him, the mothers and children would take care of themselves? It almost seemed a shame when Mastiachi shot him as he led that, what did he call it, “perpetual-motion parade”? Sheila was beautiful at the funeral, wearing those lavender feathers, wasn’t she? She, or at least the way she looked, was a tender testament, a beautiful and loving testament to MacMalady’s quirks, remember that’s what the drunken minister said in his eulogy? And wasn’t that moron put out when it started to pour rain on his Episcopalian toupee?
Then didn’t they all tramp through the rain and mud to get sloshed at Sunday’s Tavern? Did they actually think, I wonder, that that joint with its watered booze and shanty-Irish geraniums, would help them to suppress their quirks and neuroses? They drafted “Testament to the Crickets” that evening, didn’t they, all about eat, drink, and fuck, for tomorrow we die? Did that featherbrained bunch actually think they needed an “intellectual” foundation for their endless sexual rendezvous? At least Ursula, I should say Ruby, went through the motions for two minutes with that deadbeat actor, Briggs Jones, when they pretended to “rehearse” for Ghost Parades, wasn’t that the name of the turkey they were in? It closed in ten minutes and then they did Lilacs On My Lips, a dollar matinee if you brought your old crippled mother along, wasn’t that it? Do you remember that line at the curtain when they strip naked and say, in horrible unison as I recall, “The chemistry of love creates the butterfly of desire in the laboratory of the heart”? At that point Satan should have released the swarms of locusts and all the children of darkness, or am I being too harsh? Does anybody know, I wonder, that despite all their third-rate sophistication and dumb artistic pronunciamentos, they lived with their unbearable mothers and watched football? All yokels are the same, whether they’re out in the cornfields or playing shortstop naked for the Canto Cunts, am I right? Whether they’re clumping up Main Street on the Fourth of July in their garish patriotic plumes or selling junk gramophones on Bleecker Street, am I right again? Speaking of antiques, do you remember the time that Bud Starr and Ramón Mastiachi unloaded those “authentic” German helmets, made in Long Island City or Astoria, on Sol Sails, “the poet of the phallus”? That’s when they owned that antique store, if I recall, just after they’d given up the ski shop, Snow Use, cute as a button they were, which they had right after Romance Pants, their lingerie store, folded, no? Didn’t they, along with April and Sheila and Regina Lake too, I think, have some idea of spending the winter in, as Sol phrased it, “the paradise of apricot country”? They had some harebrained idea about a series of “surrealist” photographs that had to do with oboes on the boughs? Some sort of arty tableaux with pink-and-gold artificial frost on the buds and a dozen peacocks tethered to stakes while they all played horny milkman and lonely housewife, wasn’t that the scheme? Then they were going to have an interlude, that’s right, about a guitar genius who gets lost forever in a tenement, right? Another Orpheus routine, help! with Regina cast as the Eurydice figure, a rock singer called “The Ruby Sparrow” whom they gang-rape, artistically, of course, right? Wasn’t that about the time that they took to making long-distance calls to anybody about the timeless beauties of the nonexistent Almond Lakes? Didn’t they all begin stargazing in earnest and subsequently initiate that crypto-fascist ecology group, the Dogwood Conspiracy? Didn’t they even call you once about somebody named Nate Nogatz or Nougat, some nonentity who was involved in a land-development deal concerning a so-called virgin forest? With all those endlessly busy days and saving the magnificent cockroach and art and books and of course life, I wonder how they found the time to pose all those fourteen-year-old neighborhood girls in nothing but pearls and high heels with those toy parasols just barely covering their sex? Do you remember when April Snow wrote that little pamphlet, “Pigeons in the Chapel”? Wasn’t that when the money really started to roll in and they held weekly orgies in the communal bath using, as I recall, “The Gobbet” as a sex manual? Wouldn’t you say that the dwarf, what’s his name, had the right idea when he shipped them ten cases of marzipan radishes marked TOYS? They say that April became a cinnamon addict there, or am I wrong? And is there any truth to the story that Ursula went out there to “rescue” Sheila and Mastiachi hypnotized her, Bud Starr put a sign around her neck that said I DO THESE THINGS, and they both put her naked on a train to Connecticut? Don’t they say, in fact, that that’s how Ursula got the idea for the famous coach scene in Madrigals and Buttocks? I wonder why they hid all those candle ends in the crevices? Do you remember when Briggs Jones went out there with blood in his eye and they turned him into a fucking banana in a week? The story goes that they sent him back, he immediately bought a thousand dollars’ worth of bubble gum and the next day took it over to the dwarf’s duplex, what’s his name? Didn’t they like to whip born-again Christians with willow switches, gently gently? Didn’t they come back when they got all that money from the blonde who sold those unbelievable rubies that the senile bishop gave her? Didn’t they say that she took the old lecher on a kind of honeymoon that she told the cardinal was a field trip to “spot hydrangeas”? They met them at the airport when they got back, His Eminence dazed but ecstatic, and she said that they’d failed with the hydrangea hunt but had found “God’s bouquets to salve life’s maladies,” wasn’t that the disgusting phrase she used? Didn’t they, I think it was Mastiachi and April, give her a jar of aphrodisiac ointment, the slightest dab of which, etcetera, that was made out of rotten pears? I think it was called The Emperor’s Fantasy and they suggested that she use it on the old bastard when the mood was one of “naughty corsets, sheerest silk, and daring thoughts,” isn’t that how the Coney Island copy read? Didn’t it go on to say that the product was guaranteed to make a raging tiger out of a porcelain pussycat? Didn’t they say that the blonde put some on the old priest’s ice cream and he said that Jesus started telling him off-color jokes? Well, they were all capable of anything, especially Mastiachi, who took to wearing a hat made of carnations, and Regina Lake, in that absolutely unbelievable pink sleeveless dress that made her look like a woman who found her cunt by accident, right? And, like all depraved people everywhere, they loved to make the drummers they hired wear black sombreros, wasn’t that the case? Do you remember the panic that ensued when April Snow and Ursula discovered that Ramón Ramónes was not a blackamoor but just your everyday Negro? They “plunged,” I think is the word they used, at least Ursula and April did, into their manic-fugue and crippled-waltz phase, right? They didn’t let all that culture stop them from having a few “interesting” evenings with that queer janitor with the turban, did they? Weren’t they all wild about roast parakeet for a time, that period when everything was “bijou” this and “bijou” that? They were really amazed, weren’t they, when the cadaverous dowager told them that the old cardinal liked nothing better than to put on his slippers and her chemise and drink orangeade? Didn’t that revelation propel them all, once again, out of town, the women in lacy Directoire gowns and the men sheltering under “Romance of Apricots” umbrellas? They say that everybody lives in Florida now, the living as well as the dead, but who was it who insisted that they were always but figures out of chocolate?
From The Moon in Its Flight by Gilbert Sorrentino. Copyright © 2004 by Gilbert Sorrentino. Published by Coffee House Press. Reprinted with the kind permission of the publisher. All rights reserved.