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Книга Dhalgren. Содержание - 6

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Kid looked too.

From the bottom of the steps, among the milling scorpions, Tarzan watched; with a look of disgust he shook his head, turned away.

"Hey, don't let Tarzan stop you from coming," Kid said, suddenly angry. "I'll put the horsemen—" he nodded toward Copperhead and company—"on him so fast he won't be able to remember—" he started to say: His name—"what he thought it was he didn't like about you."

"Naw," Pepper said. "Naw, that ain't it. I'd just be all … Look, I thought I'd get me some wine, see. And maybe go over and say hello to Bunny. I ain't seen Bunny in a God-damn long time. She crazy, you know? She really a nut. But she's a good guy."

"Okay." Kid grinned back. "You do that."

"Uh…" Pepper said after him, "you have a nice time at the party…"

"Oh, hey…! Hey…! Come on, hey!" somebody shouted as Kid descended among them.

They started up the alley.

"Which way?" Nightmare called over a cluster of black heads in which, like, respectively, a lemon, a cumquat, and a dandelion among plums, were Tarzan's, and Copperhead's and Revelation's.

"Up this way. We have to pick up somebody."

Smoke encysted the corner street lamp in a giant pearl.

"God damn!" Somebody coughed. "How do you guys stand all this!"

(Kid couldn't see her because they had left the doorway's light.)

"You just ain't been here long enough, man! You'll get so you can't breathe without it after a while!"

"Somebody turn on some God-damn lights!" Kid called out, feeling across his chest for his projector. "Come on, huh?"

Dragon Lady's dragon raised, luminous jade, ahead. The mantis and the griffin flared, swaying, with misty penumbras.

An indigo spider flickered, mandibles higher than Kid's head — flickered out once around Copperhead, then gained full brightness like tardy neon.

Glass disappeared inside his newt.

Spitt's beetle glistened up like bottle glass.

Nightmare turned to Kid and grinned. "You got it pretty bright tonight, Kid," and flashed out beneath raised pincers.

The plastic colors opaled in the smoke.

Peacock (that was the Ripper), mantichor, and iguanadon, the spectral menagerie turned up the avenue.

6

"Are you sure this is where Lanya lives?" Kid asked Denny. The others milled about the stoop.

"Yeah," Denny said. "Yeah! Sure, ring the bell."

Kid did. Moments later, after footsteps (and he heard someone say, "Oh, dear…" behind the peephole), she opened the door and stepped out, all silver, into the smokey light.

"God damn!" Raven said appreciatively behind him.

Lanya shaded her eyes, looked about, said, "My God!" and burst out laughing.

Madame Brown, in something blue and tailored, stepped out behind her, looking tentative. The diffused light gave back to her heavy face the lines and over-madeup quality Kid had first seen by candle light. Once more her hair was harsh henna. And her neck, bound and bound around again with the optical beads, looked far too heavily decorated — yet it was the same way she wore them with her daytime browns and beiges.

Muriel barked once, leaped forward, and came up on the end of the leash.

"Oh, why don't you leave her home?" Lanya coaxed. "Look at our escort. We'll be—"

"Kid doesn't mind Muriel coming along; do you Kid? You said Roger had all those grounds. She'll be a perfect dear."

"Naw," Kid said, and discovered, saying it, he did. "Bring her along!"

"She just gets so lonely if I don't take her with me." Madame Brown surveyed the arrayed scorpions.

Muriel tried to run down the porch steps, couldn't and barked again.

"Hush, now!" Madame Brown said. "Hush!"

"Here, I'm giving this to you." Lanya handed Denny the piece of equipment Tak had taken from the warehouse with the cloth. "Put it in your shirt pocket for me?"

The silver fringe on Denny's sleeve shook in curtains of light as he put the control box away.

Lanya took Kid's hand. Her dress was sleeveless, scoop-necked, and reached the ground. She leaned to whisper: "I've got something for you too," and handed him her harmonica. "Put this in your pants pocket for me?"

"Sure."

Feeling the metal on his thigh through the dime-sized tear, Kid stepped down among the others. Lanya, Muriel, and Madame Brown came behind.

As they started, he heard Madame Brown: "Your arm looks a lot better. It hasn't been giving you any trouble?"

"No ma'am," Siam answered. "Not much. Any more. But I thought I was gonna die when you just poured all that iodine in there." He laughed.

They crossed the street.

"That was the only way I could think to keep it from getting infected. You were very, very brave."

"Shit." Siam said. "I hollered like a motherfucker — pardon, ma'am. But you remember how they were holding me down."

"Yes. And I still think you were brave."

"It's nice of you to say so. But if one of them niggers had let go of me, I'd a' probably killed you." He laughed again.

They spread the sidewalk, the street, each beast sailing on a pool of light.

Windows dripped with molten reflections — those with panes.

Perhaps half had their shields lit any one time. A boisterous black in silhouette would turn on a bright hippogryph, a mantichore; some gorgeous parrot or lizard would collapse around an ambling, side-lit figure — Kid tried to recall what that one had been, but her apparition, among so many, attracted his attention only by vanishing.

Dragon Lady, lights out, looked skeptically at Lanya, said to Kid, "I thought you said this weren't no dress-up party."

"Then you and I," Lanya told her, "will look that much better!"

Dragon Lady laughed. "You and me? Oh, honey, we sure will!" She dropped back and linked her silver arm in Lanya's bare one. "We gonna strut out fine, honey, and make them sons of bitches suffer!" Which made Lanya laugh. For a block the three of them walked arm in arm in arm.

But at some altercation ahead, Dragon Lady flared in jade and hastened forward to quell it:

Revelation (a frog) had started quarelling with Cathedral (some large bird that could, Kid realized on closer view, have been intended as an American Eagle): The Dragon moved between them, making more noise than both; they quieted.

Behind and to the side, Tarzan fingered, but hesitated to ignite, his parti-colored gila monster.

"That one…?" Madame Brown nodded ahead with a deep frown and theatrical restraint. "Have you noticed, but every time his griphon flickers—" which it just did, revealing stringy yellow hair, knobbly spine, pockmarked buttocks, and grime-rimmed heels—"but doesn't it look just like he doesn't have any clothes on at all?"

"He doesn't." Kid said.

"Is there anything wrong with him?" Madame Brown demanded. "Is he all right?"

Her tone had changed from smutty complicity to puritan distress. Kid recognized each but could not follow the mechanics of transition; he grew fearful of the light-headedness in which his mind bobbed. "No. He just doesn't have any," he explained, wondering if he were losing again his ability to follow logical connections.

Madame Brown said, "Oh…" in a tone at total odds with either previous.

They swarmed across the little park between Brisbains.

"I hope we get a ride back," Lanya said. "This is a long enough walk sober."

"Don't count on it."

"Roger is always talking in the paper about driving people in and out of town. Maybe he could have one of his drivers run us home afterward."

"I've seen his car. It's something from the thirties. Besides, how'd we fit all these people in?"

"You're just too democratic for words." She kissed his cheek. "Do you think I look nice?"

"Didn't I say so?"

"You did not. Nor did you say, 'You really made that dress yourself?' Or any of those things for which I'd prepared such very clever answers."

"Did you really make that dress yourself?" Kid slipped his hand around the tickling material on her waist. "It looks nice."

"Don't press too hard," she said. "I don't want to injure the material. No, no… I'm not driving you away!"

"I think you look nice," Denny said. "I think…" He whispered in her ear.

"Young man!" Lanya said. "I don't believe I know you—"

"Aw," Denny said, "go suck on my dick…" and started away.

"Hey, I was kidding…" Lanya called, amused puzzlement at Denny in her voice. Her waist tugged in Kid's arm.

Denny turned, his face flickering in the passing lights. As they caught up to him, he grinned. "I wasn't." He put his arm around her too.

They stepped up on the next corner, watching the jogging luminosities, delicate or bulbous, pass beneath charred branches, under lamp posts suspending inverted crowns of broken glass, by houses with columned porches, entrances gaping on blackness, as if the occupants had rushed out to see, then fled back in too distracted a state to close the doors behind.

Blocks later that image, still working in Kid's mind, finally loosened a chuckle which rolled around in his mouth.

Lanya and Denny were looking at him, she with a smile anticipating explanation, he merely without comprehension. Kid pulled her tighter. Denny's fringe brushed his arm, then crushed against him as he lowered his own arm down her back. Her far hip, moving under Kid's fingers, did not change its rhythm.

"This is all very colorful." Madame Brown strained back on the leash. "But it's quite a walk. Muriel, heel!"

"Roger's friends are pretty colorful too," Lanya said. "He'll rise to the occasion."

Vines climbed the wall. Willow boughs hung over it, sawtooth shadows growing and shrinking as the red, orange, and green lights passed.

"We're just about there, ain't we?" Nightmare called from the middle of the street. Insects and arthropods floated around him, laughing gigantically.

"Yeah!" Kid called. "The gate's up there."

Denny was lingering in his shirt pocket. "Now what am I supposed to do with this thing?"

"Once we get inside," Lanya explained, "just turn me on. Every once in a while, give a look and if what you see is too dull, fiddle with those knobs till something interesting happens. Tak says its range is fifty yards, so don't get too far away. Otherwise I go out."

Suddenly Kid pulled away to shoulder through the bright, boisterous crowd. On a whim's stutter, he thumbed his shield's pip: it clicked.

From the inside, he remembered, your shield is invisible. But people had cleared around him. (I don't know what I am.) He looked down at the cracked pavement. (But whatever it is, it's blue.) The halo moved with him across the concrete.

Three beside him turned off their lights, growing shadows before them from the lights behind.

It's like a game (there were the stone newels), not knowing who, or what, you are. He wondered how long before he would finally get someone aside and ask. And flipped his pip to kill the temptation.

Stepping ahead of the crowd, he grabbed the bars. The others massed loudly around. He wondered, as he stared in at the pines, lit clumsily and shiftingly by his bright entourage, what to call out.

"Hello!" A young — Filipino? (probably) — in a green turtleneck and sports jacket stepped up. "You're the Kid? I thought so. I'm Barry Lansang. I'm on the gate tonight. Just a second, I'll let you all in."

"Hey, we're here!"

"How we gonna get in?"

"Shut up! He's lettin' us in now."

"This here's where we going?"

Lansang stepped aside. The gate went Clang, and the noise level around Kid cut by two-thirds.

Lansang swung back the bars.

Kid stepped forward, aware that the others had not.

"Go on up," Lansang smiled. "They're all expecting you. Is this your whole party?"

"Yeah. I think so."

"If you expect anybody else to come by later, just leave their names with me and I'll make a note."

"Naw. This is it."

Lansang smiled again. "Well, if stragglers come along later and we do have an identification problem, I can always go up and find you. Come on in," this last over Kid's shoulder, accompanied by a gesture.

Kid looked back."

The gateway crowded with silent, familiar faces.

"Come on," Kid said.

Then they came.

Dragon Lady was among the first. "This is something, huh?"

"Yeah." Kid said. "And this is just the trees."

"Follow the driveway up," Lansang instructed. He was, Kid saw, enjoying himself.

Lanya joined Kid; her gown blushed pink. As they walked together, robins-egg droplets grew into puddles which swelled to oceans.

"Am I doing this right?" Denny reached under his vest into his shirt pocket with a black and glittering arm.

Lanya looked down at herself. "I think the other knob — the one on the front — is for color intensity. Leave it like this for now. We don't want to shoot it ail on the entrance."

Floodlights between the huge pines lit the gravel and, after the night journey, made them squint.

"Here we are," Madame Brown said, looking off between two trees where one light was not working. "All safe and sound."

Muriel walked close to her.

"Where's everybody likely to be?" Kid asked Lanya, whose dress dribbled a metallic green across her left breast.

"Out on the terrace gardens. Where we were that afternoon with Mr Newboy."

Kid did not remember the driveway as this long. "How come they have all this electricity?"

"When it's all working, they can get this whole grounds practically bright as day," Lanya said.

They passed the last trees:

The house was bright as day against the night.

"Newboy said something about lanterns…"

"It doesnt all work inside," Lanya said. "There was one whole wing where there wasn't a socket functioning." (Some dozens of men and women along the stone terrace turned to look.) "But whenever Roger lights the whole place up like this, I get the feeling I'm watching some really banal Son et lumiere."

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