Lewd In The Graveyard. An Audience Of Fantastics.
Mandy’s a writer. Or Hart is. Doesn’t matter. Someone’s scribbling in a hardcover notebook with a Sharpie, and it fucking stinks. Short things. Half-thoughts. Hart and Mandy aren’t big on follow-through. They are big on slurpees from the Kum-N-Go, or the 7-11, whatever the crapass convenience store between the highway and the cemetery is calling itself today. A couple glugs of the Jack in Mandy’s bag and it’s Blue Raspberry Jack and White Cherry Jack on the bench by the Gritz family plot.
You realize we’re morons for buying these things in winter, Mandy says, tearing up dead grass with her shoes. Her ass is going numb on the concrete slab. I don’t care if it’s March.
Hart doesn’t care if it’s March, either, or April, or May, or June for that matter. A good idea’s a good idea and Jack icees in the graveyard are a good idea. He’s climbing one of the more monumental headstones, presumably that of one of the more monumental Gritzes, using a headless angel for purchase. He makes the top and wraps his legs around its capstone, some saint being martyred fabulously.
“If you can be my lo-ver, I will shi-ver and si-ing,” Hart vamps, doing his best Iggy.
I know how that line ends, Mandy says, eyebrow raised. Watch how you pop those hips. She writes, it was only through impersonation that he could hope to approximate himself.
The dead don’t mind, argues Hart. You’re writing. What are you writing?
Nothing. Mandy chews at her straw. Ask that saint. He minds. Look at that face.
Hart swivels, looks. He loves it. Look. He shimmies, slides his palms over his clothes, into his pants. “If you can be my mas-ter, I will do-oo any-thing…”
Mandy’s laughing hard enough to send ice shavings out her nose. Christ, that hurts, she giggles, doubling up as blue snot lands on her open notebook and between her feet. Poor Iggy. Jesus.
Hart grins. Poor Jesus, you mean. Iggy’s got him beat.
Poor me. I can’t feel my fingers, Mandy groans. She blows into her cupped palms. Let’s go inside, Hart.
Nah, I just got up here, Hart protests. Hart is always protesting. When Mandy smokes he protests that she’s killing him. When she doesn’t he protests that she’s a victim of the cult of self-righteous bourgeois health nuts. And so on. He’s not the sign-waving type—hasn’t got the attention span—but there’s always something. Mandy says he’s a bastion of intellectual fuckitude. Hart says he’s a fucking critical thinker in a time of soundbyte pukers and God and what’s left of his angels save her if she thinks he’s better off like them. And so on.
Hand me my icee, will you? Hart calls from the other side of the saint. Thing’s gonna melt before I can finish it.
Mandy puts down her book and walks the cup to him, stretching her legs and rolling her ankles. Tastes the same melted, she points out.
Hart takes the drink, takes a long pull. His face squinches up and he groans loud—nnNNNnn—before dropping his jaw. Jee-zus. Brain freeze. That hurt.
Morons, like I told you, Mandy says, hopping in place, breath cloudy before her like the dream of a cigarette.
Hart balances the cup on the saint’s head. He slides to the base, jumps to the ground. Goes to Mandy and kisses her forehead, rubs against her just enough to be able to say he did. You’re freezing, he says into her hairline. Let’s go.
Feline Discoveries. Bad Smells.
Mandy’s on the john at Hart’s, knees jammed against the sink. It’s tight like this in the bathrooms at all the houses. She doesn’t notice. She notices her hair is frizzier than she’d like, she notices the eyeliner under her right eye is heavier than the liner under her left, she notices her jawline’s not what it used to be. The sound of Hart’s guitar comes through the drywall: the opening to Galapagos, but only the opening. Hart never learned past it. She tries to even out the liner but it won’t smudge. Her hair won’t be calmed. She looks vaguely crazed, she decides. It’s too bad.
She flushes, she washes her hands. The liquid soap smells good. Like almonds and rain. The guitar’s stopped. She pads down to the basement, threading her way around the litter pans, imagining she is not entirely unlike a cat. Hart’s curled on the futon, reading her journal. This image doesn’t parse. She tries again. No, Hart’s still on the futon, still reading her journal.
Put it down, Hart, she manages.
Hart glances up, then goes back to the book. Is this me? he asks.
Is what you? Mandy starts, then remembers she’s got no reason to be the one answering the questions and strides toward him. Never mind. Give me the book.
He’s not listening. He’s not a listener. He’s got a thinking look on his face, a question in his frequent blinks.
Mandy’s not going to stand here and wait for a chance to see her own book. She grabs it from his hand. He doesn’t try to hold onto it, which sort of pisses her off, if she’s honest. That wasn’t yours to read, she says, reproachful.
He’s still silent. It’s worse than his usual chatter. She’s not going to apologize, she decides. Whatever’s got him pissed, she’s not sorry. She perches on the edge of the futon. It’s corduroy, and it’s cutting into her palms, the way the smell of the cat litter is cutting into her brain. She wishes he’d get on with his indignant thing so she can leave firmly wronged, openly wronged. Not that she isn’t, but it’s not official til he speaks. She hates him for that.
Hart moves, enough to catch the notice of her peripheral vision, and she turns to look at him. He’s looking her in the eyes, unwavering, an abnormality. He’s still blinking. He’s a pale spot against the mural he painted on the wall behind him, the mural of the power lines at dusk. It’s not very good, but it’s right for the space. Off-putting, crepuscular.
Do you really feel invisible when we fuck? he says softly. A genuine question, no fuse wrapped around the hook of its punctuation.
Mandy watches one of the cats slink from under the stairs to under the futon. It brushes her leg on its way beneath. She nods. She wants to go. Hart scoots toward her, holds her with an improbable tenderness. It’s worse than his usual oblivion because it gives her hope that he’ll tune in periodically.
I’m sorry, Hart whispers. I didn’t know.
They fuck. He tunes in. She comes, he doesn’t.
They’re walking home, they’re perennially walking home, under the power lines, perennially under the power lines. Once they went camping out west and couldn’t sleep and couldn’t hit on why. When they got back Mandy tried to work it out. Hart shushed her midword and said, It was the silence. There is no silence here. The lines buzzed assent. Mandy said nothing. Hart missed the irony.
This time it’s fall. Autumn. When the wind comes in from the east it smells like burning leaves, but it usually comes from the south, bringing the exhaust of the highway. Something’s always burning, Mandy writes in her notebook, mid-stride. She can’t piece words together like she used to, not since she walked in on Hart reading her notes. Not because she fears he’ll read it, but because she knows he will, she wants him to. Somehow her handwriting reaches him in ways her voice can’t.
They’re sprawled on the prairie path, Mandy smoking.
You’re killing me, Hart whines.
That’s right, baby, Mandy says, exhaling hard. One breath at a time.
Put it out.
Soon as it’s done.
What are these?
Are they poisonous?
No, but they’ll probably kill you.
When was the last time you ate a piece of fruit?