Printer friendly version

January 23, 2005

Exposition, Chapter 3 (p. 38-43)

A Whispering Through the Branches
< Previous | Beginning | Next >

D. woke frightened and sat bolt-upright supported by her arms, one of which had not yet awakened and so buckled. As she lay on her side, her heart beat like crazy, and she panted at the scattered remains of her nightmare. She had always believed that dreams should be taken flippantly, if not altogether dismissively, but of these dreams of hers she did not know what to make.

She had begun the evening, as it seemed, naked in a white world, though wrapped in silvery cellophane with malenky little flowers trapped between her skin and the plastic. Writhing and gasping for breath, she got only the smallest sniff of pollen, and this got her to sneezing. With each sneeze and then gasp combination the wrap around her head loosened, dropping off in little slivers. The piece that covered her ears fell away, and she could hear a single piano all around, and she was very pleased and proud and feeling intelligent-like to be able to give a name to the music, though she had to admit that it was one of the more famous works by one of the more famous composers — the first movement of Beethoven's Pathétique Sonata (Opus 13 in c-minor, although this she did not know), very dark and passionate. In her wrapped-up dream, and wrapped in sheets on her bed, she flopped like a fish on the deck of some very cushy cushy like ship until two very soft doves came to rest on her ears, and these were really the mattress on the left and pillow on the right. All peaceful now, she rolled over and the birds flap flap flapped away, letting in the music. But this time it was all nice and calm, being the beautiful second movement.

Out of the white around her, which she realized was only a thick thick fogiwog, came walking statues of men in the height of ancient Roman fashion, followed by a man she knew, though she could not recall ever seeing a picture of him, was P. B. Shelley, the poet, with long dainty scissors in his dainty hands. Off with the cellophane, and under was a real sharpy evening gown, and on with the dance! A twirling and a dipping in a slow sleepy two step, and then a faster but still sohlenumkuous waltz. When the movement ended, Peebee stepped back and clapped and like bowed as if to say, "Thank you for the dance, my lovely."

Then the music was very sad but skorry, or quick, and D. saw that her gown was now all grazzy and ripped, and her not looking much like a princess, but more like a peasant. Just then the piano started to swell and grow-like, and this seemed as if it was meant to introduce an army of little fairies without wings, who all linked arms to dance a jig around her feet. Suddenly, the fairies or elves made to grab at her, so she just stepped real easy over them and started to run. Another crash of the piano is what finally woke her up.

But the piano was still going on with its song, and she was quite sure now that she was awake, so she snatched up an ample white robe that was lying on a chair at the foot of her bed. She tugged on the door, but it wouldn't open until she unlocked it with the key that she had left in the hole.

Out on the balcony, she noticed that the light that came into the courtyard was that colorless white or gray dim twilight before dawn comes with its flaming ball. A thin ground mist lay above the grass like dust on a carpet and twirled about the maroon-slacks-covered legs of a young man at the piano under the willow, his longish hair swinging here and there in front of his eyes in time with the music. Just then, from the perpendicular side of the courtyard, on the balcony outside his room, John shouted down through the empty willow at the pianist:

"Alex! Damn it, there are people sleeping up here!"

Alex, as was apparently his given name, looked up, not at John, which would have required a standing and a ceasing of the playing, but at D. Something in his eyes, all radiant green like puddles of leaky antifreeze, sent little lizards running up her spine as he played the final downward scale and chord.

Jumping up, he knocked loose the mast, and the lid of the piano slammed shut with a loud Crash! As he disappeared into the ballroom, D. noticed that his shirt was all chalky and frilly like a pirate's. John shrugged his shoulders in a silent guffaw and went back into his room. D. returned to hers puzzled, turning the key in the door behind her.

She tightened her robe and lay on the bed without any inclination toward sleep. Very strange was all this, indeed! A piano player up and stroking away before the sun was full on the horizon. An old man who promised fires and food delivering only brandy, fake eggs, and stale toast the night before. But the room to which he had led her once his persistent talking had begun to obviously drain her of consciousness was pleasant enough, when finally she was taken to it.

She sat up and looked around. The walls were covered with an old and peeling patterned paper that had faded to a dull pink. Opposite the entrance was a window, draped with an ancient dark green curtain, looking out into a gnarling mesh of branches, the closest of which had grown so near that a strong wind might send it crashing into the room. There were no closets nor wardrobes nor dressers. Aside from the bed and chair against the eastern wall, a free-standing mirror and a desk touching the western were the only furnishings. On the desk, thrust into an ornate silver candelabra, was the candle with which John had guided her the night before.

Next to the candle was a neatly folded white dress that D. had not noticed before, though she was sure that she could not have missed it. In fact, she was positive that she had thrown her own clothes, which had actually dried before she had had the opportunity to ask for new ones, on that exact spot. But she had locked the door. Yes, she had just unlocked it to get out. Well, John would have a key, I'm sure, she thought, and another shiver shook at the thought of him standing over her while she slept.

"That's it. I'm out of here," she said out loud, springing from the bed.

The dress was of an out-dated fashion, but was very pretty nonetheless. Not too frilly, but with a lovely cut: the kind of getup people are only looking for excuses to wear. She slipped it over her head and shoulders. Looking in the mirror, D. thought that she now looked fit, in style and era, to dance with Shelley in the Spring English country side.

Forgetting for a moment her predicament, she giggled to herself and was about to invite her reflection to the ball when she got the strong feeling that somebody was watching her from behind and thought she saw but the slightest of shadows in the glass. She spun and found herself alone, but her desire to leave the place at once became a desperate need, and she fled the room.

Padding quietly past John's room — she had not wanted to take the iron staircases for fear of bumping into that Alex fellow — she made her way as quietly as possible down the front stairs, across the entrance hall, and out the creechy protesting front door.

Outside, the cool air slid its fingers under her dress and up her legs indecent-like and the skin goosed up all over her body. Crossing the damp dewy lawn, she cursed having no shoes for her feet, but pushed on through the bushes from which she had emerged the night before. Once out of sight of the house, and in the new world of like trees all lonely and lovely and naked, she listened to hear the shoom of the stream, but heard it not. She glanced around and picked a way that looked right and started off in a rapid march.

As she walked, the forest around her began to make strange sounds, and she told herself it was just the trees and the earth and the wee-little animals all waking up and rubbing their woodsy eyes and nothing to get all poogly about. But when the thicket thickened so did her fear do the same, and she imagined she heard first a swish swish swish from the left, and then a quick swoosh swoosh swoosh from the right. Not wanting to lose her composure, but not really caring if she did, being all on her oddy knocky and all (she hoped), she started to run, keeping a very careful glaz on the ground for roots and such, but not really noticing the little branches and twigs that were whipping at her bare arms.

Soon came a gurgle gurgle that would be the treacle of the creek. She quickened her step in that direction, and all around her was like a whispering of like filthy slovos, as she fancied, though it was only windy shushing. But then, with the treacle becoming more like a quiet roar, she heard sure the cracking of a breaking branch and faltered. Whipping her head to and fro, she turned and ran contrary to the sound.

The shushing of the wind began forming slow and slurred and breathy words, all around like coming from the air itself, though none with which she was familiar with.

Just my mind hearing nonsense that isn't really there. Probably the wind, she thought, but ran a bit faster.


These were starting to sound like words she might know, some of them, so she knew she wasn't verily by her lonesome. Through the greening brown vesches and mist, she saw a twinkling of glass, and there was her car. She made for it real skorry, but from behind came a chumble chumble and a ringaling. Turning, she saw that Alex veck holding out her keys and making them glitter and clang by twirling the ring about his finger.

"What's it going to be then, eh?" he asked, like leering like.

But answer not did she, just by dashing off sidelong only responded. From behind, a little smeck and then the sound of chasing footsteps. And then a voice singing gromky-like, almost shouting at the peak of its goloss, and this melody she knew to be of the same composer as the sonata, but this time his Ninth Symphony:

Freude, shöner Götterfunken,
Tochter aus Elysium,

A branch or rock scraped at her ankle and she stumbled anxiously.

Wir betreten feuertrunken,
Himmlische, dein Heiligtum!

The goloss stopped, and hope of hopes maybe so the singer did, but then, and closer still, started up again, so she thought maybe his hands were near touching her shoulders and clawing at her trailing skirt in time to the melody:

Deine Zauber binden wieder,
Was die Mode streng geteilt;

Panting, gasping, veering right, then leftward D. cut suddenly.

Alle Menschen werden Brüder,
Wo dein sanfter Flügel weilt.

And then there was like a leaping sound and crash, Alex was on her back, and her face down in the cold dirt. Laughing, he forced her over and like straddled her with his knees, all the time humming the tune of poor Ludwig Van who never did anything to anybody but give them music. He rip rip razrez skvatted tearing like at her dress. She slipping and slithering. Up went his arm to tolchock her hard on the litso. She twisted and pushed and kicked and clawed and pushed and kicked.

"Oh my merzky yarbles!" he shouted, falling over and like grabbing at his crotch, and she was free and running.

She ran and ran until she hadn't heard anything for some time but the bushes and branches bouncing into their natural places behind her and was turning her head to look back when she hit hard into grasping arms.

Posted by Justin Katz at January 23, 2005 2:37 PM
A Whispering Through the Branches