Noiseless and Patient

Brian Monday is the author of the story collection The Klein-Bottle Boy and His Ontological Dilemma, as well as two collections of poetry--A Little Breath and A Locker of Limericks.

Image of Short Story
Shhh. I won’t hurt you. No hiss, no pain, no second bite. See, only shhh. It’s a terrible ache, I know. The wrapping will comfort and warm you. Ensconced in my finest silk. I’ll remove it when your nerves agree to rest. Not the sound of my voice, no, but you know me. From our chats on the web, then the library. But this is too fast, I see. Perhaps first lemonade, hot as it is even at this dark hour, at least to you. I thrive in midwestern mug, and this admirably stubborn structure—so like the harmhouse of my childhood—was never converted to conditioned air. Lemons and life, lemons and life.

Here, dearie. Let me. There. On my onliest tuffet. You can drink now. It’ll soothe those tremors. We’ll save the other for tomorrow, freshly squeezed; for now, an intsy globule of wine, goblet red, and a dab on your neck for those pesky pokes, ancient concoction of minced fly, tried and true.

What venom and bite in return!

But no, so sorry. I understand given the circumstances, which I grant are beyond the pale. At the moment I have no right, though let me remind in my gentlelest words that you chose me the same, that you sent out a thousand pheromonally charged breaths of hope, that we anchored early our friendship with rich, nuanced exchanges touching on shared hobbies and pastimes, politics and fears. Books, walks, nature, music, art. These were—and are—true interests profoundly shared. We love honey and coffee; we fiercely defend the necessity of compulsory education. I know you hate TV and its talking heads, and you know I tolerate it, and them. We mutually abhor pollution of all ilks. Air, water, sound, the pollution of the night’s sky. You dread spiders—or the idea of spiders, spideriness—and wake violently to throw your bedclothes off and turn lights on, imagining you’ve seen one creeping in your halfsleep over the edge of your comforter—this you’ve shared with me—and you know I dread the wrath of mothers who dress their children up then down to shame them in supermarket parking lots and wrist-jerk them toward hot cars. What you don’t know but I’ll remind you of in time is that we’ve also shared a past, a rich and storied friendship.

Oh, for example, that lamp. Yes, that shade required the softest touch. We selected its meshy ornament in our choicest collecting grounds. You don’t remember? I prize it for the lacey design you once told me it throws upon the wall. Perhaps you’ll tell me again about the lacey design I trust it still throws upon the wall. And that...well, you’ll feel in a tic the faintest sensation as the train approaches like a millipede through the night then blood-thunders past, five miles distant at its nearest, with its antennae crashing through canopies of trees but mostly endless fields of corn from town to town on its rails along a vast grid of American greed. All those goods prepared for a hundred thousand unboxings. I can feel the hum of purchase orders placed, the trundle of trucks, the slap and slide of packages delivered on hot porches. All the while noiselessly and patiently I sit at the geographical center and hub—in my dusty, obscure attic corner—and feel out into every distance, taking note of every tap and jar, every thready twang, which is how I first felt-sensed you and have now benignly netted you. The faintest response and tell-tale tapping at the other end of my emails and messages, posts and blogs. Kafka introduced us, he and his beetle boy. All atwitter you were, though I’m hardly a bird-catcher, and when I laid eyes on you in the stacks I saw dimly you were nothing but a wisp, a will-o’-the-wisp, slight and slender, a mere katydid fairy swaddled in blue jeans and a gossamer blouse whose honeydew I could smell in my palps, and oh to hear you sing at night before long, before long!

This room will prove most settling. See the sack stretched there to there, sagging below the windowsill. Let me place you in it where I’ll cut away this wrap, and this. Note the missing screen and breeze. Hear the night unraveling. Feel the wine rouse then douse your senses. Here’s a moonbeam for a light, but I’ll feel my way like seeing. Close your eyes like this, and this, and rest. I’ll keep vigil, snatching up the moth who blunder-dances in or the mosquito who murmurs in your ear or any other long-leggedy beastie, dare she, who reaches svelte leg over sill. Smell the prairie cooling with its tangle of spiderwort and bee balm, its black-eyed Susans and blue-eyed grass, its milkweed, thistles, and goldenrod; and now smell the ravine beyond the yard mixing in its creek-bottom clay newly slicked with rain, its banks pocked with crayfish burrows and overhung with vegetation—fox sedge and lobelia and touch-me-nots. Listen to the layered lullaby, the curtain of chirps, some solos quite nearby, and the eager katydids with their Morse-code sawblade calls cutting in to taunt me nightly with questions of whether Katy did or didn’t when I can tell you, sure as night, Katy never did.

Now sleep late late late and rise tomorrow only when you hear the cicada, who’s my heart’s throb and thrum.