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Книга Dhalgren. Содержание - III: House of the Ax

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Finally, she clutched his fist, like a rock or a root-knob, too big for her fingers, first out from them— hunching and hunching, he pressed the back of her hand into grass; between her spread fingers, grass blades tickled, his knuckles — then, as he panted and fell, and panted, she dragged it by jerks, to the blanket; dragged up the blanket; and finally held it against her cheek, her mouth, her chin.

His chin, wet and unshaven, slipped against her throat. He remembered how she had sucked his thumb before and, taking a curious dare, opened his fingers and thrust three into her mouth.

The realization, from her movement (her breaths were loud, long, and wet beside him, the underside of her tongue between his knuckles hot), that it was what she had wanted, made him, perhaps forty seconds after her, come.

He lay on her, shuddered; she squeezed his shoulders.

After a while, she practically woke him with: "Get off. You're heavy."

He lifted his chin, "Don't you… like to be held afterward?"

"Yes." She laughed. "You're still heavy."

"Oh," and he rolled — taking her with him.

She squealed; the squeal became laughter as she ended up on top of him. Her face shook against his, still laughing. It was like something she was chewing very fast. He smiled.

"You're not heavy," he said, and remembered her saying she was four or eight pounds overweight; it certainly wasn't with fat.

In the circle of his arms, she snuggled down; one hand stayed loose at his neck.

The contours of the ground were clear beneath his buttocks, back, and legs. And there was a pebble (or something, (under the blanket?) under his shoulder (or was it a prism on his chain)… there…

"You all right?"

"Mmm-hm." He got it into a depression in the ground; so it didn't bother him. "I'm fine."

He was drifting off, when she slid to his side, knees lapped with his shins, head sliding to his shoulder. She moved one hand on his belly beneath the chain. Her breath tickled the hair at the top of his chest. She said: "It's the kind of question you lose friends for… But I'm curious: Who do you like better in bed, Tak or me?"

He opened his eyes, looked down at what would be the top of her head; her hair brushed his face. He laughed into it, shortly and sharply: "Tak's been telling tales?"

"Back at the bar," she said, "while you were in the john." Actually, she sounded sleepy. "I thought he was joking. Then you said you'd been there in the morning."

"Mmmm." He nodded. "What did he say?"

"That you were cooperative. But basically a cold fish."

"Oh." He was surprised and felt his eyebrows, and his lower lip, raise. "What do you think?"

She snuggled, a movement that went from her cheek in his armpit (he moved his arm around her), down through her chest (he could feel one breast slide on his chest; one was pressed between them so tightly he wondered if it wasn't uncomfortable for her), to her hips (his cock rose from between his thighs and fell against his belly), to her knees (he clamped his together around hers) to her feet (he pushed his big toe between two of hers: and she held it). "Intense…" she said, pensively. "But I like that."

He put his other arm around her. "I like you better," and decided that he did. Suddenly he raised his head from the blanket, looked down at her again: "Hey… Do you have any birth-control stuff?"

She began to laugh, softly at first, her face turned into his shoulder, then out full, rolling away from him to her back, laughing in the dark.

"What's so funny?" He felt the length where she'd been as cold now as it had been warm.

"Yes. I have taken care of the birth-control… 'stuff,' as you. put it." Her laughter went on, as light as leaf tipping leaf. "It's just your asking," she told him at last, "sounds so gallant. Like manners from another age and epoch. I'm not used to it."

"Oh," he said, still not quite sure he understood. And, anyway, he felt himself drifting again.

He wasn't sure if he actually slept, but came awake later with her arm moving sleepily against his; aroused, he turned to her, and at his movement, she pulled herself half on top of him: she had been lying there, already excited.

They made love again; and fell into sleep like stone — till one or the other of them moved; and once more they woke, clinging.

So they made love once more; then talked — about love, about moons ("You can't see them at all now," she whispered. "Isn't that strange?"), about madness — and then made love again.

And slept again.

And woke.

And made love.

And slept.

III: House of the Ax

Beginning in this tone, for us, is a little odd, but such news stands out, to your editor's mind, as the impressive occurrence in our eccentric history. Ernest Newboy, the most notable English-language poet to emerge from Oceana, was born in Auckland in 1916. Sent to school in England, at twenty-one (he tells us) he came back to New Zealand and Australia to teach for six years, then returned to Europe to work and travel.

Mr Newboy has been three times short-listed for the Nobel Prize, which, if he receives it, will make him one in a line of outstanding figures in the twin fields of diplomacy and letters which includes Asturias, St-John Perse, and Seferis. As a citizen of a comparatively neutral country, he has been visiting the United States at an invitation to sit on the United Nations Cultural Committee which has just adjourned.

Ernest Newboy is also the author of a handful of short stories and novellas, collected and published under the title Stones (Vintage Paperback, 387 pp., $2.95), including the often anthologized long story, The Monument, a disturbing and symbolic tale of the psychological and spiritual dissolution of a disaffected Australian intellectual who comes to live in a war-ravaged German town. Mr Newboy has told us that, though his popular reputation rests on that slim volume of incisive fiction (your editor's evaluation), he considers them essentially experiments of the three years following the close of the War when he passed through a period of disillusionment with his first literary commitment, poetry. If nothing else, the popularity of Stones and The Monument turned attention to the three volumes of poems published in the thirties and forties, brought together in Collected Poetry 1950 (available in Great Britain from Faber and Faber). To repeat something of a catch-phrase that has been echoed by various critics: While writers about him caught the despair of the period surrounding the War, Newboy, more than any other, fixed it in such light that one can lucidly see in it the genesis of so much of the current crisis. From his early twenties, through today, Newboy has produced occasional, literary, and philosophical essays to fill several volumes. They are characterized by a precise and courageous vision. In 1969 he published the book-length poem Pilgrimage, abstruse, surreal, often surprisingly humorous, and, for all its apparent irreverence, a profoundly religious work. After several more volumes of essays, in 1977 the comparatively brief collection of shorter poems written in the thirty-odd years since the War, Rictus, appeared.

A quiet, retiring, scholarly man, Newboy has traveled for most of his life through Europe, North Africa, and the East. His work is studded with images from the Maori and the many cultures he has been exposed to and explored, with his particular personal insight

Newboy arrived in Bellona yesterday morning and is indefinite about the length of his stay. His comment to us when asked about his visit was, after a reticent smile: "Well, a week ago I wasn't intending to come here at all. But I suppose I'm happy I did."

We are honored that a man with such achievement in English letters and a figure of such world admiration should.

"What are you doing?" she mumbled, turning from his side.

"Reading the paper." Grass creased his elbows. He had wiggled free of the blanket as far as his hips.

"Did it come out yet?" She raised her head in a haze of slept-in hair. "It isn't that late?"

"Yesterday's."

She dropped her head back. '"That's the trouble with sleeping out. You can't do it past five o'clock in the morning."

"I bet it's eight." He spread the wrinkled page bottom.

"What—" opened her eyes and squinted—"you reading about?"

"Newboy. That poet."

"Oh, yeah."

"I met him."

"You did?" She raised her head again, then twisted, tearing blankets from his leg. "When?"

"Up at Calkins'."

She pulled up beside him, hot shoulder on his. Under the headline, NEWBOY IN TOWN, was a picture of a thin white-haired man in a dark suit with a narrow tie, sitting in a chair, legs crossed, looking as though there were too much light in his face. "You saw him?"

"When I got beat up. He came out and helped me. From New Zealand; it sounded like he had some sort of accent."

"Told you Bellona was a small town." She looked at the picture. "Hey, how come you didn't get inside then?"

"Somebody else was with him who raised a stink. A spade. Fenster. He's the civil rights guy or something?"

She blinked at him. "You really are out meeting everybody."

"I wish I hadn't met Fenster." He snorted.

"I told you about Calkins' country weekends. Only he has them seven days a week."

"How does he get time to write for the paper?"

She shrugged. "But he does. Or gets somebody to do it for him." She sat up to paw the blankets. "Where did my shirt go?"

He liked her quivering breasts.

"It's under there." He looked back at the paper, but did not read. "I wonder if he's ever had George up there?"

"Maybe. He did that interview thing."

"Mmmm."

Lanya dropped back to the grass. "Hell. It isn't past five o'clock in the morning. You know damn well it isn't."

"Eight," he decided. "Feels like eight-thirty," and followed her glance up to the close smoke over the leaves. He looked down again, and she was smiling, reaching for his head, pulling him, rocking, by the ears, down: He laughed on her skin. "Come on! Let me go!"

She hissed, slow. "Oh, I can for a while," caught her breath when his head raised, then whispered, "Sleep…" and put her forearm over her face. He lost himself in the small bronze curls under her arm, and only loosened his eyes at faint barking.

He sat, puzzled. Barking pricked the distance. He blinked, and in the bright dark of his lids, oily motes exploded. Puzzlement became surprise, and he stood.

Blankets fell down his legs.

He stepped on the grass, naked in the mist.

Far away a dog romped and turned in the gap between hills. A woman followed.

Anticipatory wonder caught in the dizzy fatigue of morning and sudden standing.

The chain around his body had left red marks on the underside of his forearms and the front of his belly where he'd leaned.

He got on his pants.

Shirt open over tears of jewels, he walked down the slope. Once he looked back at Lanya. She had rolled over on her stomach, face in the grass.

He walked toward where the woman (the redhead, from the bar) followed behind Muriel.

He fastened one shirt button before she saw him. She turned on sensible walking shoes and said, "Ah, hello. Good morning."

Around her neck, the jewels were a cluttered column of light.

"Hi." He pulled his toes in in the grass, shy. "I saw your dog last night, at that bar."

"Oh yes. And I saw you. You look a little better this morning. Got yourself cleaned up. Slept in the park?"

"Yeah."

Where candlelight had made her seem a big-boned whore, smoke-light and a brown suit took all the meretricious from her rough, red hair and made her an elementary-school assistant principal.

"You walk your dog here?"

An assistant principal with a gaudy necklace.

"Every morning, bright and early… um, I'm going to the exit now."

"Oh," and then decided her tentativeness was invitation.

They walked, and Muriel ran up to sniff his hand, nip at it.

"Cut that out," she demanded. "Be a good dog."

Muriel barked once, then trotted ahead.

"What's your name?" he asked.

"Ah!" she repeated. "I'm Madame Brown. Muriel went over and barked at you last night, didn't she? Well, she doesn't mean anything by it."

"Yeah. I guess not."

"About all you need now is a comb—" she frowned at him—"and a towel, and you will be back in shape." She released her shrill and astounding laughter. "There's a public john over there where I always see the people from the commune going to wash up." Then she looked at him seriously. "You're not with the commune there, are you?"

"No."

"Do you want a job?"

"Huh?"

"At least you're not a long-hair," she said. "Not very long, anyway. I asked you if you wanted a job."

"I wear sandals," he said, "when I put anything on my feet at all."

"That's all right. Oh, heavens, I don't care! I'm just thinking of the people you'd be working for."

"What kind of work is it?"

"Mainly cleaning up, or cleaning out I suppose. You are interested, aren't you? They'll pay five dollars an hour, and those aren't the sort of wages you can sneeze at in Bellona right through here."

"Sure I'm interested!" He swallowed in surprise. "Where is it?"

They approached twin lions. Madame Brown put her hands behind her back. Muriel brushed the hem of her skirt. The glut of chain and glass could catch no glitter in this light. "It's a family. Do you know where the Labry Apartments are?" To his shaking head: "I guess you haven't been here very long. This family, now, they're nice, decent people. And they've been very helpful to me. I used to have my office over there. You know there was a bit of confusion at the beginning, a bit of damage."

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