By Dominic Laing
“Pretty dress, baby.”
“Better be. Short enough.”
“Meaning you bought it. It’s December and you buy me a dress that’s too cold even on the Fourth of July.”
“But you wear it so well.”
“Thank you, James.”
“Love you too, Baby.”
James and Baby sat in the club. James adored Baby and her legs, the way the skirt pulled tight and pushed down into the fat of her thighs. He could pick out the lights and their multi-colored gels reflected on her skin. Baby pressed her middle finger into James’ left shoulder blade, sliding two inches left and sliding back the two, over and over, sinking her line.
Baby’s eyes drifted up to the stage. She saw a man, sitting.
“You see that?”
“Kinda low, don’t you think?”
“Kinda low, don’t you think?”
“Maybe he has his hat pulled down low for a reason.”
“Maybe he’s ugly.”
“He likes the brim to push against his forehead.”
“The hell for?”
“Wants to feel like it’s sown to his head.”
“Who the hell does he think he is?”
“He wants to feel a resistance.”
“James, it’s a hat.”
“No doubt there’s method to his madness.”
“His madness is present and accounted for; he must’ve left his method in the cab.”
“And the jacket--”
“What’s this Easter-Egg purple bullshit?”
“Statement, yes. Does it have to do with Fashion? Yes. Fashion Statement? No.”
“You seek to break me?”
“No, I seek to illuminate.”
“Calling his Velveteen Rabbit-Jacket a ‘Fashion Statement’ makes as such sense as watching the clean-up hitter die on three called strikes and calling it ‘athleticism.’”
“For the purple. They used to glean the dye from sea snails. Either you’d attack the snail, and it’d secrete it a defensive mechanism, or you’d crush the snail.”
“Why would someone crush the snail?”
“You get more dye that way. Less labor intensive.”
“Maybe he should’ve tried milking snails; might’ve helped him realize what a stupid idea it was to wear purple.”
“If the good Lord wanted us to wear purple, He would’ve made it a helluva lot easier to make the color.”
“It’s a royal color.”
“On Palm Sunday, The King of Kings rode an ass into town.”
“Was the ass purple?”
“No, but keep it up and your face’ll be blue--”
“You gonna sit here and watch old No-Name, fedora half-way down his face and wearing a jacket that makes him look like the Joker?”
“I’m an optimist.”
“You’re a fool.”
“And you’re a queen in that dress.”
“Thank you James.”
“I love you too, Baby.”
The Musician swung the trumpet to his lips, and James only had a split second before a note would break the air; the gap of Time where, if he felt like it, James could dive under the surface and make it last forever.
A stage light hit the curve of the trumpet bell, and James knew it beyond all shadows and valleys of doubt. James knew the golden glow of a new trumpet, the sheen of a polished horn and the leprous rust of a discarded instrument.
The Musician had painted the bell of his trumpet.
James saw the paint and the patten. He saw the orange enclose the bell and fade toward the front of the horn. James could count each black gash, from the edge of the bell on back toward the valves. Immediately he saw the Bengal Tiger in the pasture of light, in the most divided of split seconds before unleashing itself on its prey.
James’ mind tumbled and fell beneath the waters.
When a child, his father took him out into the country. The Father collected his child while still asleep, and James woke in the car, still no sign of the sun outside. By the time his father stopped the car, everything recognizable and familiar had long since vanished.
James sprinted out of the car and into the maze of woods. His father’s voice receded to nothing but the faintest whisper. He turned to catch the fading voice, instead locking eyes with a family of deer; father, mother and baby. No more than ten feet away from him. He froze, as if he’d been wandering aimlessly and opened his eyes to find himself in the Tabernacle. James didn’t know whether to run, square his shoulders or fall to his knees. He wasn’t sure if it was Holy Ground or a Killing Field.
The baby deer bounced across the trail, paying no particular attention to James. James’ eyes shot back to the Father, who looked above and beyond James. If the Father was thinking about James, he wasn’t gonna let him know it. James fought for the Father’s eyes, all the while entranced by his antlers, extending out and up like two hands, palms out and pointed skyward.
The Mother scared him most. The Mother locked her eyes on James and never let him out of her sight. James looked in her eyes and saw her sleekness, her grace and flow. James knew Time was moving, but elsewhere. Locked in a trance with the Mother, Time had slowed. It had run out to sea, and James knew it was up to the Mother as to when it would rush back ashore.
At this moment, James realized he was ten feet away from a deer who could cover the distance in the most divided of split seconds and kill him.
All at once she showed him elegance and rage. Her beauty and Her violence.
James came up from beneath the waves in time to see the Bengal, hovering above the waters, claws extended and about to roar.