Every nation ends and every empire. Every baby born was going to die, given enough time. If being fated for destruction were enough to take the joy out of things, we’d slaughter children fresh from the womb. But we don’t. We wrap them in warm cloth and we sing to them and feed them milk as if it might all go on forever.

In my mind, I gave the woman gifts. I gave her a candle stub. I gave her a box of wooden kitchen matches. I gave her a cake of Lifebuoy soap. I gave her a ceilingful of glow-in-the-dark planets. I gave her a bald baby doll. I gave her a ripe fig, sweet as new wood, and a milkdrop from its stem. I gave her a peppermint puff. I gave her a bouquet of four roses. I gave her fat earthworms for her grave. I gave her a fish from Roebuck Lake, a vial of my sweat for it to swim in.

I know what’s wrong with me – I could never stand still for death! Which you’ve got to do by a certain age, or be ridiculous – you’ve got to stand there nobly and serene, and let death run his tape on your arms and around your belly and up your crotch until he’s got you fitted for that black suit. And I can’t, I won’t!… So I’m left with wrestling with this anachronistic energy which God has charged me with and I will use it till the dirt is shoveled in my mouth! Life! Life! Fuck death and dying!

I leaned forward with my elbows on my knees and her book in my hands. Like a lot of things in my life, I’d just about worn it out, but it was worn out with love, and that’s the best kind of worn-out there is. Maybe we’re like all those used cars, broken hand tools, articles of old clothing, scratched record albums, and dog-eared books. Maybe there really isn’t any such thing as mortality; that life simply wears us out with love.

I had turned my mind from my survival just as a man suffering from a deadly sickness manages by a thousand tricks never to look at death squarely; or rather, as a woman alone in a large house refrains from looking into mirrors, and instead busies herself with trivial errands, so that she may catch no glimpse of the thing whose feet she hears at times on the stairs.

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