The problem is Palo’s name should no longer be Palo. Considering the changes he has undergone. It should be Stone, or Rock. In Spanish for consistency. Consistency is a godsend in stories. A story is what I’m writing. Stone in Spanish is Piedra. Pietà. Pietà is at least Italian, closely related to Spanish, a pear to an apple here, Ishmael to Isaac, half-brothers by the father, which is almost consistent, at least Abraham was screwing more than his wife for consistency’s sake. And then there is the gravitas of changing one’s name to Pietà, or having one’s name changed to Pietà, due to its overt symbolism of a virgin mother holding her dead crucified godson in her lap, no, not symbolism, the Pietà actually means a representation of the Virgin Mother mourning over her dead crucified suicided songod thanks to Michelangelo, no, that is one well known example but it is not his fault, he is so dead, a deep or at least long and wide stream of artistic obsession has set the meaning of pietà in stone, though it also means pity and compassion and piety and reverence, and symbolizes despair and hope. And god and man. And life and death. And love and lovelessness. Is there anything I have not included? I aim to be inclusive. Pipe up. You bought the book, you’ve earned a say in its meaning or symbolism, whichever you choose, but not both, unless you bought two books, then you could use one say one way and the other another, though that would be splitting your says and they just might wind up negating each other, trust me, I’m experienced, but don’t let me discourage you from buying more than one book. If your name were Palo and suddenly, all of a sudden, with sudden suddenness, never use sudden in a story or nobody will buy it, your name were Pietà, what would you do? Nevermind. Irrelevant and not at all what I mean and misleading in that it implies that what you would do is relevant to this story. I mean, such a name change would be on par, I hate golf, with Jacob becoming Israel. If a tad less grand. But who can say what will come, when Jacob became Israel he did not know Israel would one day symbolize a nation, if a fucked nation, let alone an entire people. Now there is the logic, the gods are not without their logic, it merely takes time, enormous and unforgiving quantities of time, bail it in buckets and bundle it in twine, as to why the gods will not allow me to change Palo’s name. Pietà is a word freighted with meaning. When god, okay God to be specific, was permitted to change Jacob’s name, Israel had no meaning. I just made that up. I’m just hoping, praying, that is why. That is why I cannot change Palo’s name to Pietà. A little deduction is all that’s required. Or induction. Whatever works. Adduction. Outduction is not a word. Until you start using it as if it were and it acquires a meaning. You do it. I’m not up for it. All I need to do is choose a meaningless name for Palo that means stone or rock. I’m hungry. I’m sorry, bodily needs should have nothing to do with this. I’m not good at such meaningless choices. Or meaningful choices. Whatever that means. And we all know how Palo feels about meaninglessness, and therefore meaning. He is not given to talk of them. I put words in his mouth so he acknowledges their existence. You’d think some common community of existent subjects, meaning, meaninglessness, himself, would give him some sympathy, some cordiality, some decency to say Hello, but apparently it does not. His mouth is getting harder to find.
* * *
Palo has not encountered anyone for a long time who would call him Palo. He has not encountered anyone for a long time. He has not encountered anyone since he left Antoinette, and he does not remember her using his name, and does not expect to, he is alone in the woods, descending, and Reb did not say his name this morning when he left so many yesterdays ago before dawn whole seasons ago back in the fall before she awoke because she was asleep. Since he does not refer to himself in his head in the third person, he is in the early stages of forgetting his name, though he does not know it. He does not know if not knowing he is Palo means he is not Palo, because that is not something he thinks about. He does not refer to himself in his head at all, not in the first person, not in the second person, not in the third person, not in singular or plural, not in however many persons there are. He does not know if this lack of self-referentialness means he has no identity. There is no evidence he refers to anything in his head. Nothing is known of him. Except his actions. Which is frightening. Which are disconcerting.
He tries putting both his head and his stones in the hat. That does not go well. He carries some stones in his hat, turned upside down so they will not fall out, and one stone tucked in his cheek like an acorn. For all purposes, the stone is an acorn, but less nutritious. He descends the hill naked but for his boots. He descends by a different path than he climbed by, no, he descends by no path, which is different than the path he climbed by. He descends with a cavity in the soft zone between his ribs and pelvis. Which is to say he is hungry, though he does not say it. He tries to hold a steady downhill course, though this is more difficult than it sounds. He is often suddenly heading uphill and must turn around and go the way he came.
He comes upon a fowl. A duck. A grouse. He is silent. The grouse permits him to come very close, perhaps because Palo makes no noise, perhaps because Palo smells foully of a passive prey animal, such as deer or grouse, perhaps because it does not know Palo is there because he gives no evidence of being so, perhaps because grouse are not very smart. Palo bends down and picks up a large stick, which becomes a club. He raises it but it turns into a large stone too heavy for a man to hold in one hand above his head. He brings it down on the small head of the grouse, crushing it. There is some blood. Some bone. An eye projected. He turns the bird over, ventral side up. He steps on its wings and pulls on its feet. The innards slurp out slick as a withdrawn promise. The innards dangle from the feet. The muscle and organs, the edibles, limp and dripping and warm. All feathers remain with the skin of the evacuated bird. He removes the spit-saturated stone from his cheek. He eats slowly, before the bird gets cold. He begins with the breast. He continues with a thigh. He swallows kidney, liver, heart, each a pill with its own texture, each a pill he chews. He licks blood from his lips. The sky is blue. Branches are brown, speckled in green. He stops shivering for a moment. He continues with the other breast, the other thigh. He chews each mouthful of muscle for a long time.
* * *
Forced air. A scratching at the door. I lie down on my stomach to look underneath the door. There is not enough space, so I bend my legs at the knee and dangle my feet in the air like a five-year old reading a book on the floor, though there is nothing to read but some piss stains and dust bunnies and the eyeball underneath the door, pressed to the floor, outside the door, looking at me.
Hi, the eyeball says.
Pizza! the eyeball says. Pizza! she says again. Pizza! she says several more times because she, this eyeball, either finds repetition poetic or is desperate for her communication to be understood or wants to make me cry.
A piece of pizza is pushed under the door. A conventional piece of pizza, a triangle with an outer edge than is an arc of a circle, the piece being an eighth of a circle, a 45o section of a pizza pie, π/4 radians of a pie, pie in Spanish is foot, perhaps too then in Italian, though Italian doesn’t matter, and I cannot see her feet but I am sure they are like mine, swaying in the air from her upright lower legs held perpendicular to the plane of her body which is parallel to the floor, in contact with the floor, cheek pressed against the floor, though the eyeball is not yet five, they learn so young. We are head to head on our stomachs, the door between us, mirror images, but mutated, as she is a considerably shrunken version of me whose dimensions are somewhat out of proportion, whose limbs are too thick, whose hair is too red, whose head is too large, whose eye is too prevalent. Still, better than the image in the mirror in the bathroom, I imagine, I must imagine because I will not look there. Which begs the question of if I am the image in her mirror. I hope she doesn’t think she looks like me.
The pizza lost a piece of pepperoni. She shoves it through with enthusiasm, Daddy!, and her poofy hand comes through too. I touch it on accident. Not on accident though that’s what I tell myself to justify my transgression. Her skin is soft and she laughs, no, chortles and she grabs my finger and we go back and forth, a little tug-of-war that I let her win to the extent that I can, which is no great extent, there being a door between us.
I take back my frolicking finger. I eat the eyeball pizza. It is the best pizza I’ve ever eaten, unsurprisingly. It is not a surprising piece of pizza, except in its delivery. The eyeball is pushing her hand far under the door in search of my finger in exchange for the pizza, tempting me with touch, now the whole hand is in, now up to the elbow, nearly the shoulder. I am beginning to fear the entire eyeball will squeeze herself under the door like a mouse that can disjoint its joints and squeeze through holes much smaller than it, there is the head to remember, you can’t disjoint your head even if you’re a mouse, the head then is the limiting factor, when I remember this eyeball has a large head, much larger than the crack under the door. But despite knowing this, out of fairness, and in hopes of a bit of satiation, no, I am past hoping for satiation, but to compensate for what I cannot give her, I place in her hand the last bit of crust. She chortles some more. She slowly withdraws her hand and its prize. It takes a moment, a number of moments; it’s a tight fit. As the last sight of her fistful of crust disappears, I speak.
Is it tomorrow yet?
The eyeball’s feet thump, running away.
The dirty clothes in the corner I wad under the door. I fill the cracks. I don’t want to know.