Palo walks down out of a cloud into a notcloud naked wearing boots and an evacuated grouse on his head and a small stone in his cheek and stones in his hat-cum-sack. The grouse-cum-hat’s primary color is brown though brown is not a primary color, a variation of which is the primary color of Palo and most everything in the woods, except the new green, the ferns, the apple blossoms. Dried brown blood runs down his forehead. Dried brown blood stains his forehead where bright red blood once ran. He walks. Wings thump limply about his ears. He is in a word insatiable. He is in a word.
There is no word for what he does now. He roars. He does not say anything. He is out of words. He roars. He appears to think of emptying his sack of stones and throwing each stone downhill one-by-one and as he walks down and encounters a stone pick it up and throw it downhill and proceed to the next and thus continue downhill without carrying the stones of which he knows not the purpose as if he were playing golf with multiple balls and no clubs and no holes, but he appears to choose to not follow through on his apparent thought. He undoubtedly hates golf, or would if it existed for him, or at least he would hate what it has come to represent: real estate development, money, the American aristocracy, expensive pleasure, a good way to ruin a long walk, if he knew of golf’s existence, though he may be attracted by the original game, the pure thing, uncorrupted, in Scotland, and be willing and even proactive in engaging the game in Scotland, if he knew of golf or games or Scotland. He chooses to not play solitary golf with his stones without clubs or holes or a score or balls or grass or pencils or people perhaps because he does not know the possibilities. In which case perhaps it is not a choice, though it is not the choice’s fault he does not know.
What is possible perhaps narrows for him because he is losing his capacity for rational thought. Though perhaps it is the opposite that is true. Perhaps what is possible expands because his rationality declines. Or perhaps it is the other opposite; his possibilities are shrinking because his rationality expands.
He chooses instead to pummel a fir tree senseless with his sack of stones. The fir tree does not appear to care. The fir tree does not fight back. The fir tree does not give any outward indication of pain. The fir tree does not hurt him. Fir needles are friendly. The fir tree takes it like a tree. The fir tree loses some bark and absorbs a dent. He continues. He goes. The fir tree, largely unharmed, stays.
* * *
Dear, the door says, the hollow door, the door with some kind of plastic coating, the door with some thin margin of wood in it somewhere, below the surface, above the hollow, not at center, however processed, the door whose qualities somehow inspire excessive imprecision, no, somehow inspire some excessive use of the imprecise word some, no, sometimes some is more precise than precision because precision lies or at least does not tell the whole truth, which we teach our children is lying, in a very nice or apologetic or alluring voice, I need some help picking up a table.
What table? I speak in spite of myself. I speak in a voice of one who suffers from chronic low-level annoyance. I speak in an annoyed voice. I speak in an annoying voice. That I speak is annoying. The introduction of absurd unforeshadowed objects such as tables is not what annoys me. The expectation that I speak annoys me. That I am spoken to annoys me.
I got us a new table, the door says.
The expectation that it is my business to traffic one absurd object for another when the one already possessed is a perfectly sufficient absurd object annoys me.
How much did it cost? I say.
It’s new used. It’s nice. Seats six. Black granite, the door says.
The expenditure of money on an absurd object, which I could just as easily have made, which also would have been annoying, and not possible because though I can write into existence a shiny black granite table that seats six I cannot make such a thing, which is an annoying shortcoming, annoys me.
What’s wrong with the old table?
It only has three legs, the door says. The door, having no legs, is jealous.
So do I, I say. I annoy me.
It’s a nice table, the door says. It’s a lot cheaper than it should be, the door says. It’ll make me happy, the door says. The door wants a friend.
My inability to cease annoys me.
It’s heavy, the door says, I need your help. The door has no hands, and thus cannot lift anything that is particularly heavy.
Don’t you want a new table? the door says.
I want less noise.
Tables don’t make noise.
That’s not true.
This one will make no more noise than the one we have. Maybe less with a fourth leg.
I want less signal noise.
This isn’t a turntable.
I want less background noise.
After the kids are in bed I’ll lay on the table, the door says. The table will be hard and cold. I’ll be wearing my skirt, but not by much. We’ll christen it whatever you come up with. We’ll explore what kind of noise it makes, it’s natural frequency. Then I’ll turn around and it’ll be a turntable and it’ll make music and we’ll look down into the mirrored granite surface and be in the hard table that will cost us so much less than it should and I’ll think of all the money we’ve saved by buying it and you’ll think of whatever it is you think about, I don’t care, it’s a free ticket, use your imagination, you can be behind me and below me, we’ll look into each other’s eyes in the table and we’ll all eat off it for breakfast in the morning.
The door is just talking, perhaps not even saying what it’s saying, which is out of character for the door or anything to say. The door is hard. I am hard. The floor is hard beneath my feet. The toilet seat is a hard ring on my ass since I opened the lid and dropped my pants to once more feel more legitimate. Feeling legitimate is hard. Writing is hard; living is harder; not living is not hard; traversing from living to not living and vice versa is hard; determining what is living and not living is hardest. Opening a door is hard or not hard. Picking up a slab of granite is hard on the back and irrelevant. Granite is hard. Making love to a hard door is hard, much harder than screwing a swallowed scream out of a rock-hard table with a pencil, and I will have nothing to do with the table. I will have no part of it.
* * *
Palo is face-to-face with a raccoon. Which is very large. Not a very large which, a very large raccoon. It is very large because it is a bear, except with circles around its eyes and a striped tail and the mind of a raccoon. It is perhaps the raccoon, though it is not a raccoon, except in appearance and mind. It does not have a stick in its mouth, but that information is not informative because there appears to be no sticks anywhere anymore. All the sticks on the ground are stones. The sticks still attached to trees are not sticks but branches, or perhaps sometimes twigs, but not sticks and therefore not stones. Branches are still alive. Sticks are not. Nor are stones. Such distinctions are important, but why is another question. What alive means is a branch which will not be broken.
The bear wants something from Palo. Or Palo wants something from the bear. He wants his life, but he will not give it. They fight: claws, mauling, blood, gutting, evisceration; it is hard to tell who wins and what winning is, winning is living and losing is dying, that is pert, but what is the condition of the living and what is mercy. It does not happen. There is a fight that does not happen. There is a fight that is only written. The difficulty is in that, perhaps, he is too smart for his own good, like a raccoon. He wants his hat, but he will not give it to him because it is on his head. He means the hat on his head, meaning the grouse. He offers instead his hat with the stones, though it is unclear if he knows which hat was the object of his desire in the first place. How this is communicated is hard to describe. He is not a talking bear. He is not a man who talks much. The simplest description is he points at the hat; he gives him the other hat.
The bear, being a raccoon, takes two small stones out of the hat and approaches them as tools, approaching them while they are in his paws, taking a mental approach to the stones he takes. He smashes the air between the rocks with the stones. Which does nothing. Sparks some sparks, but nothing. He tries to eat one, which does not work. He stacks one on top of the other but they keep falling over, or the topmost does. The bottommost is effective at being a stack of one stone. The bear hurls the two stones away and declares them useless through his actions. Palo takes back his hat full of unthrown stones and is about to show the bear what stones are good for by braining him, he really should show him how they are useful, so the bear knows and so Palo can eat him, it is the only rational act. Palo is hungry and he will always be hungry, and he is naked and he could skin the bear and use the bear skin as his skin so instead of being naked he will be a bear, which is an order of magnitude more socially acceptable, but remember Palo is losing his mind, imagine it, a naked man in boots with his head stuffed in an evacuated grouse talking without talking to a raccooned bear that does not talk, all while refusing to relinquish and yet yielding his sinfully inappropriate stick of a name, for which he should stone himself to death, for it has ruined a perfectly acceptable if relatively loving family without advancing his career or significantly satisfying his passion, to use an oxymoron or paradox or histrionically anachronistic ox of a phrase, besides ruining his profession without advancing his love, whatever profession that may be, but having lost his mind he neither brains himself nor the bear, who does not have his mind either, but one of a raccoon. He is so singularly focused on going downhill that, after going uphill and searching for what feels like hours and picking up the mysteriously flat and heavy stones discarded by the bear, he proceeds downhill without further acknowledgement of the bear’s existence. The bear shrinks to the size of a raccoon, dark rings still around his eyes and tail, the whole bit. He trails Palo downhill like a tail. Fine, like a dog with the body and mind of a raccoon and the air of a defeated bear.
As they go, as they go down, the bulbs come up. First crocuses then daffodils and hyacinth and blue bells and finally tulips.