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June 29 The New Moon 7




Misty takes him a glass of water, her hand shaking so hard you can hear the ice rattle. Just so you know, her headache is going on its third day. Her headache, its the feeling of maggots rooting into the big soft pile of her brain. Worms boring. Beetles tunneling.

The guy at table eight says, You dont get a lot of men in here, do you?

His aftershave has the smell of cloves. Hes the man from the ferry, the guy with the dog who thought Misty was dead. The cop. Detective Clark Stilton. The hate crimes guy.

Misty shrugs and gives him a menu. Misty rolls her eyes at the room around them, the gold paint and wood paneling, and says, Wheres your dog? Misty says, Can I get you anything to drink?

And he says, I need to see your husband. He says, Youre Mrs. Wilmot, arent you?

The name on her name tag, pinned to her pink plastic uniformMisty Marie Wilmot.

Her headache, its the feeling of a hammer tap, tap, tapping a long nail into the back of your head, a conceptual art piece, tapping harder and harder in one spot until you forget everything else in the world.

Detective Stilton sets his pen down on his notebook and offers his hand to shake, and he smiles. He says, The truth is, I am the countys task force on hate crimes.

Misty shakes his hand and says, Would you like some coffee?

And he says, Please.

Her headache is a beach ball, pumped full of too much air. More air is being forced in, but its not air. Its blood.

Just for the record, Mistys already told the detective that Peters in the hospital.

Youre in a hospital.

On the ferry the other evening, she told Detective Stilton how you were crazy, and you left your family in debt. How you dropped out of every school and stuck jewelry through your body. You sat in the car parked in your garage with the engine running. Your graffiti, all your ranting and sealing up peoples laundry rooms and kitchens, it was all just another symptom of your craziness. The vandalism. Its unfortunate, Misty told the detective, but shes been screwed on this as bad as anybody.

This is around three oclock, the lull between lunch and dinner.

Misty says, Yeah. Sure, go see my husband. Misty says, Did you want coffee?

The detective, he looks at his pad while he writes and asks, Did you know if your husband was part of any neo-Nazi organization? Any radical hate groups?

And Misty says, Was he? Misty says, The roast beef is good here.

Just for the record, its kinda cute. Both of them holding pads, their pens ready to write. Its a duel. A shoot-out.

If hes seen Peters writing, this guy knows what Peter thought of her naked. Her dead fish breasts. Her legs crawling with veins. Her hands smelling like rubber gloves. Misty Wilmot, queen of the maids. What you thought of your wife.

Detective Stilton writes, saying, So you and your husband werent very close?

And Misty says, Yeah, well, I thought we were. She says, But go figure.

He writes, saying, Are you aware if Peters a member of the Ku Klux Klan?

And Misty says, The chicken and dumplings is pretty good.

He writes, saying, Are you aware if such a hate group exists on Waytansea Island?

Her headache tap, tap, taps the nail into the back of her head.

Somebody at table five waves, and Misty says, Could I get you some coffee?

And Detective Stilton says, Are you okay? You dont look so hot right now.

Just this morning over breakfast, Grace Wilmot said she feels terrible about the spoiled chicken saladso terrible that she made Misty an appointment to see Dr. Touchet tomorrow. A nice gesture, but another fucking bill to pay.

When Misty shuts her eyes, shed swear her head is glowing hot inside. Her neck is one cast-iron muscle cramp. Sweat sticks together the folds of her neck skin. Her shoulders are bound, pulled up tight around her ears. She can only turn her head a little in any direction, and her ears feel on fire.

Peter used to talk about Paganini, possibly the best violin player of all time. He was tortured by tuberculosis, syphilis, osteomyelitis in his jaw, diarrhea, hemorrhoids, and kidney stones. Paganini, not Peter. The mercury that doctors gave him for the syphilis poisoned him until his teeth fell out. His skin turned gray-white. He lost his hair. Paganini was a walking corpse, but when he played the violin, he was beyond mortal.

He had Ehlers-Danlos syndrome, a congenital disease that left his joints so flexible he could bend his thumb back far enough to touch his wrist. According to Peter, what tortured him made him a genius.

According to you.

Misty brings Detective Stilton an iced tea he didnt order, and he says, Is there some reason why youre wearing sunglasses indoors?

And jerking her head at the big windows, she says, Its the light. She refills his water and says, It hurts my eyes today. Her hand shakes so much she drops her pen. One hand clamped to the edge of the table for support, she stoops to pick it up. She sniffs and says, Sorry.

And the detective says, Do you know an Angel Delaporte?

And Misty sniffs and says, Want to order now?

Stiltons handwriting, Angel Delaporte should see it. His letters are tall, soaring up, ambitious, idealistic. The writing slants hard to the right, aggressive, stubborn. His heavy pressure against the page shows a strong libido. Thats what Angel would tell you. The tails of his letters, the lowercase y s and g s, hang straight down. This means determination and strong leadership.

Detective Stilton looks at Misty and says, Would you describe your neighbors as hostile to outsiders?

Just for the record, if you have masturbation down to less than three minutes because you share a bathtub with fourteen people, take another drink.

In art theory, you learn that women look for men with prominent brows and large, square chins. This was some study a sociologist did at West Point Academy. It proved that rectangular faces, deep-set eyes, and ears that lie close to their heads, this is what makes men attractive.

This is how Detective Stilton looks, plus a few extra pounds. Hes not smiling now, but the wrinkles that crease his cheeks and his crows-feet prove he smiles a lot. He smiles more than he frowns. The scars of happiness. It could be his extra weight, but the corrugator wrinkles between his eyes and the brow-lift wrinkles across his forehead, his worry lines, are almost invisible.

All that, and the bright red horns on his forehead.

These are all little visual cues you respond to. The code of attraction. This is why we love who we love. Whether or not youre consciously aware of them, this is the reason we do what we do.

This is how we know what we dont know.

Wrinkles as handwriting analysis. Graphology. Angel would be impressed.

Dear sweet Peter, he grew his black hair so long because his ears stuck out.

Your ears stick out.

Tabbis ears are her fathers. Tabbis long dark hair is his.

Yours.

Stilton says, Lifes changing around here and plenty of people wont like that. If your husband isnt acting alone, we could see assault. Arson. Murder.

All Misty has to do is look down, and she starts to fall. If she turns her head, her vision blurs, the whole room smears for a moment.

Misty tears the detectives check out of her pad and lays it on the table, saying, Will there be anything else?

Just one more question, Mrs. Wilmot, he says. He sips his glass of iced tea, watching her over the rim. And he says, Id like to talk to your in-lawsyour husbands parentsif thats possible.

Peters mother, Grace Wilmot, is staying here in the hotel, Misty tells him. Peters father, Harrow Wilmot, is dead. Since about thirteen or fourteen years ago.

Detective Stilton makes another note. He says, How did your father-in-law die?

It was a heart attack, Misty thinks. Shes not sure.

And Stilton says, It sounds like you dont know any of your in-laws very well.

Her headache tap, tap, tapping the back of her skull, Misty says, Did you say if you wanted some coffee?

July 16

DR. TOUCHET SHINES a light into Mistys eyes and tells her to blink. He looks into her ears. He looks up her nose. He turns out the office lights while he makes her point a flashlight into her mouth. The same way Angel Delaportes flashlight looked into the hole in his dining room wall. This is an old doctors trick to illuminate the sinuses, they spread out, glowing red under the skin around your nose, and you can check for shadows that mean blockage, infections. Sinus headaches. He tilts Mistys head back and peers down her throat.

He says, Why do you say it was food poisoning?

So Misty tells him about the diarrhea, the cramps, the headaches. Misty tells him everything except the hallucination.

He pumps up the blood pressure cuff around her arm and releases the pressure. With her every heartbeat, they both watch the pressure spike on the dial. The pain in her head, the throb matches every pulse.

Then her blouse is off, and Dr. Touchets holding one of her arms up while he feels inside the armpit. Hes wearing glasses and stares at the wall beside them while his fingers work. In a mirror on one wall, Misty can watch them. Her bra looks stretched so tight the straps cut into her shoulders. Her skin rolls over the waistband of her slacks. Her necklace of junk jewelry pearls, as it wraps around the back of her neck, the pearls disappear into a deep fold of fat.

Dr. Touchet, his fingers root, tunnel, bore into her armpit.

The windows of the examining room are frosted glass, and her blouse hangs on a hook on the back of the door. This is the same room where Misty had Tabbi. Pale green tiled walls and a white tiled floor. Its the same examination table. Peter was born here. So was Paulette. Will Tupper. Matt Hyland. Brett Petersen. So was everyone on the island under the age of fifty. The islands so small, Dr. Touchet is also the mortician. He prepared Peters father, Harrow, before his funeral. His cremation.

Your father.

Harrow Wilmot was everything Misty wanted Peter to become. The way men want to meet their prospective mother-in-law so they can judge how their fiancee will look in another twenty years, thats what Misty did. Harry would be the man Misty would be married to in her middle age. Tall with gray sideburns, a straight nose, and a long cleft chin.

Now when Misty closes her eyes and tries to picture Harrow Wilmot, what she sees is his ashes being scattered from the rocks on Waytansea Point. A long gray cloud.

If Dr. Touchet uses this same room for embalming, Misty doesnt know. If he lives long enough, hell prepare Grace Wilmot. Dr. Touchet was the physician on the scene when they found Peter.

When they found you.

If they ever pull the plug, hell probably prepare the body.

Your body.

Dr. Touchet feels underneath each arm. Rooting around for nodes. For cancer. He knows just where to press your spine to make your head tilt back. The fake pearls folded deep in the back of her neck. His eyes, the irises are too far apart for him to be looking at you. He hums a tune. Focusing somewhere else. You can tell hes used to working with dead people.

Sitting on the examination table, watching them both in the mirror, Misty says, What used to be out on the point?

And Dr. Touchet jumps, startled. He looks up, eyebrows arched with surprise.

As if some dead body just spoke.

Out on Waytansea Point, Misty says. Theres statues, like it used to be a park. What was it?

His finger probes deep between the tendons on the back of her neck, and he says, Before we had a crematorium in this area, that was our cemetery. This would feel good except his fingers are so cold.

But Misty didnt see any tombstones.

His fingers probing for lymph nodes under her jaw, he says, Theres a mausoleum dug into the hill out there. His eyes staring at the wall, he frowns and says, At least a couple centuries ago. Grace could tell you more than I could.

The grotto. The little stone bank building. The state capitol with its fancy columns and carved archway, all of it crumbling and held together with tree roots. The locked iron gate, the darkness inside.

Her headache tap, tap, taps the nail in deeper.

The diplomas on the examining rooms green tiled wall are yellowed, cloudy under glass. Water-stained. Flyspecked. Daniel Touchet, M.D. Holding her wrist between two fingers, Dr. Touchet checks her pulse against his wristwatch.

His triangularis pulling both corners of his mouth down in a frown, he puts his cold stethoscope between her shoulder blades. He says, Misty, I need you to take a deep breath and hold it.

The cold stab of the stethoscope moves around her back.

Now let it out, he says. And take another breath.

Misty says, Did you know, did Peter ever have a vasectomy? She breathes again, deep, and says, Peter told me that Tabbi was a miracle from God so I wouldnt abort.

And Dr. Touchet says, Misty, how much are you drinking these days?

This is such a small fucking town. And poor Misty Marie, shes the town drunk.

A police detective came into the hotel, Misty says. He was asking if we had the Ku Klux Klan out here on the island.

And Dr. Touchet says, Killing yourself is not going to save your daughter.

He sounds like her husband.

Like you, dear sweet Peter.

And Misty says, Save my daughter from what ? Misty turns to meet his eyes and says, Do we have Nazis out here?

And looking at her, Dr. Touchet smiles and says, Of course not. He goes to his desk and picks up a folder with a few sheets of paper in it. Inside the folder, he writes something. He looks at a calendar on the wall above the desk. He looks at his watch and writes inside the folder. His handwriting, the tail of every letter hanging low, below the line, subconscious, impulsive. Greedy, hungry, evil, Angel Delaporte would say.

Dr. Touchet says, So, are you doing anything different lately?

And Misty tells him yes. Shes drawing. For the first time since college, Mistys drawing, painting a little, mostly watercolors. In her attic room. In her spare time. Shes put up her easel so she can see out the window, down the coastline to Waytansea Point. She works on a picture every day. Working from her imagination. The wish list of a white trash girl: big houses, church weddings, picnics on the beach.

Yesterday Misty worked until she saw it was dark outside. Five or six hours had just disappeared. Vanished like a missing laundry room in Seaview. Bermuda triangulated.

Misty tells Dr. Touchet, My head always hurts, but I dont feel as much pain when Im painting.

His desk is painted metal, the kind of steel desk youd see in the office of an engineer or accountant. The kind with drawers that slide open on smooth rollers and close with thunder and a loud boom. The blotter is green felt. Above it on the wall are the calendar, the old diplomas.

Dr. Touchet with his spotted, balding head and a few long brittle hairs combed from one ear to the other, he could be an engineer. With his thick round glasses in their steel frames, his thick wristwatch on a stretch-metal band, he could be an accountant. He says, You went to college, didnt you?

Art school, Misty tells him. She didnt graduate. She quit. They moved here when Harrow died, to look after Peters mother. Then Tabbi came along. Then Misty fell asleep and woke up fat and tired and middle-aged.

The doctor doesnt laugh. You cant blame him.

When you studied history, he says, did you cover the Jains? The Jain Buddhists?

Not in art history, Misty tells him.

He pulls open one of the desk drawers and takes out a yellow bottle of pills. I cant warn you enough, he says. Dont let Tabbi within ten feet of these. He pops open the bottle and shakes a couple into his hand. Theyre clear gelatin capsules, the kind that pull apart into two halves. Inside each one is some loose, shifting dark green powder.

The peeling message on Tabbis windowsill: Youll die when theyre done with you.

Dr. Touchet holds the bottle in her face and says, Only take these when you have pain. There isnt a label. Its an herbal compound. It should help you focus.

Misty says, Has anybody ever died from Stendhal syndrome?

And the doctor says, These are green algae mostly, some white willow bark, a little bee pollen. He puts the capsules back in the bottle and snaps it shut. He sets the bottle on the table, next to her thigh. You can still drink, he says, but only in moderation.

Misty says, I only drink in moderation.

And turning back to his desk, he says, If you say so.

Fucking small towns.

Misty says, How did Peters dad die?

And Dr. Touchet says, What did Grace Wilmot tell you?

She didnt. Shes never mentioned it. When they scattered the ashes, Peter told Misty it was a heart attack. Misty says, Grace said it was a brain tumor.

And Dr. Touchet says, Yes, yes it was. He closes his metal desk drawer with a boom. He says, Grace tells me you demonstrate a very promising talent.

Just for the record, the weather today is calm and sunny, but the air is full of bullshit.

Misty askes about those Buddhists he mentioned.

Jain Buddhists, he says. He takes the blouse off the back of the door and hands it to her. Under each sleeve, the fabric is ringed with dark sweat stains. Dr. Touchet moves around beside Misty, holding the blouse for her to slip each arm inside.

He says, What I mean is sometimes, for an artist, chronic pain can be a gift.

July 17

WHEN THEY WERE in school, Peter used to say that everything you do is a self-portrait. It might look like Saint George and the Dragon or The Rape of the Sabine Women, but the angle you use, the lighting, the composition, the technique, theyre all you. Even the reason why you chose this scene, its you. You are every color and brushstroke.

Peter used to say, The only thing an artist can do is describe his own face.

Youre doomed to being you.

This, he says, leaves us free to draw anything, since were only drawing ourselves.

Your handwriting. The way you walk. Which china pattern you choose. Its all giving you away. Everything you do shows your hand.

Everything is a self-portrait.

Everything is a diary.

With the fifty dollars from Angel Delaporte, Misty buys a round ox-hair number 5 watercolor brush. She buys a puffy number 4 squirrel brush for painting washes. A round number 2 camel-hair brush. A pointed number 6 cats-tongue brush made of sable. And a wide, flat number 12 sky brush.

Misty buys a watercolor palette, a round aluminum tray with ten shallow cups, like a pan for baking muffins. She buys a few tubes of gouache watercolors. Cyprus green, viridian lake green, sap green, and Winsor green. She buys Prussian blue, and a tube of madder carmine. She buys Havannah Lake black and ivory black.

Misty buys milky white art masking fluid for covering her mistakes. And piss-yellow lifting preparation for painting on early so mistakes will wipe off. She buys gum arabic, the amber color of weak beer, to keep her colors from bleeding together on the paper. And clear granulation medium to give the colors a grainy look.

She buys a pad of watercolor paper, fine-grained cold-press paper, 19 by 24 inches. The trade name for this size is a Royal. A 23-by-28-inch paper is an Elephant. Paper 26.5 by 40 inches is called a Double Elephant. This is acid-free, 140-pound paper. She buys art boards, canvas stretched and glued over cardboard. She buys boards sized Super-Royal and Imperial and Antiquarian.

She gets all this to the cash register, and its so far beyond fifty dollars she has to put it on a credit card.

When youre tempted to shoplift a tube of burnt sienna, its time to take one of Dr. Touchets little green algae pills.

Peter used to say that an artists job is to make order out of chaos. You collect details, look for a pattern, and organize. You make sense out of senseless facts. You puzzle together bits of everything. You shuffle and reorganize. Collage. Montage. Assemble.

If youre at work and every table in your section is waiting for something, but youre still hiding out in the kitchen sketching on scraps of paper, its time to take a pill.

When you present people with their dinner check and on the back youve drawn a little study in light and shadowyou dont even know where its supposed to be, this image just came into your mind. Its nothing, but youre terrified of losing it. Then its time to take a pill.

These useless details, Peter used to say, theyre only useless until you connect them all together.

Peter used to say, Everything is nothing by itself.

Just for the record, today in the dining room, Grace Wilmot was standing with Tabbi in front of the glass cabinet that covers most of one wall. Inside it, china plates sit on stands under soft lights. Cups sit on saucers. Grace Wilmot points to them one at a time. And Tabbi points with her index finger and says, Fitz and Floyd ... Wedgwood ... Noritake ... Lenox ...

And shaking her head, Tabbi folds her arms and says, No, thats not right. She says, The Oracle Grove pattern has a border of fourteen-carat gold. Venus Grove has twenty-four carat.

Your baby daughter, an expert in extinct china patterns.

Your baby daughter, a teenager now.

Grace Wilmot reaches over and loops a few stray hairs behind Tabbis ear, and she says, I swear, this child is a natural.

With a tray of lunches on her shoulder, Misty stops long enough to ask Grace, How did Harrow die?

And Grace looks away from the china. Her orbicularis oculi muscle making her eyes wide, she says, Why do you ask?

Misty mentions her doctors appointment. Dr. Touchet. And how Angel Delaporte thinks Peters handwriting says something about his relationship with his dad. All the details that look like nothing standing alone.

And Grace says, Did the doctor give you any pills to take?

The tray is heavy and the foods getting cold, but Misty says, The doc says Harrow had liver cancer.

Tabbi points and says, Gorham ... Dansk ...

And Grace smiles. Of course. Liver cancer, she says. Why are you asking me? She says, I thought Peter told you.

Just for the record, the weather today is foggy with widely conflicting stories about your fathers cause of death. No detail is anything by itself.

And Misty says, she cant talk. Too busy. Its the lunch rush. Maybe later.

In art school, Peter used to talk about the painter James McNeill Whistler, and how Whistler worked for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, sketching the coastline settings for proposed lighthouses. The problem was, Whistler wouldnt stop doodling little figure studies in the margins. He drew old women, babies, beggars, anything he saw on the street. He did his job, documenting land for the government, but he couldnt ignore everything else. He couldnt let anything slip away. Men smoking pipes. Children rolling hoops. He collected all of it in doodles around the margin of his official work. Of course, the government canned him for it.

Those doodles, Peter used to say, theyre worth millions today.

You used to say.

In the Wood and Gold Room, they serve butter in little crocks, only now each pad has a little picture carved in it. A little figure study.

Maybe its a picture of a tree or the particular way a hillside in Mistys imagination slopes, right to left. Theres a cliff, and a waterfall from a hanging canyon, and a small ravine full of shade and mossy boulders and vines around the thick trunks of trees, and by the time shes imagined it all and sketched it on a paper napkin, people are coming to the bus station to refill their own cups of coffee. People tap their glasses with forks to get her attention. They snap their fingers. These summer people.

They dont tip.

A hillside. A mountain stream. A cave in a riverbank. A tendril of ivy. All these details come to her, and Misty just cant let them go. By the end of her dinner shift, she has shreds of napkins and paper towels and credit card receipts, each one with some detail drawn on it.

In her attic room, in the heap of paper scraps, shes collected the patterns of leaves and flowers shes never seen. In another heap, she has abstract shapes that look like rocks and mountaintops on the horizon. There are the branching shapes of trees, the cluster of bushes. What could be briers. Birds.

What you dont understand you can make mean anything.

When you sit on the toilet for hours, sketching nonsense on a sheet of toilet paper until your ass is ready to fall outtake a pill.

When you just stop going down to work altogether, you just stay in your room and phone for room service. You tell everyone youre sick so you can stay up all night and day sketching landscapes youve never seen, then its time to take a pill.

When your daughter knocks and begs you for a good-night kiss, and you keep telling her to go to bed, that youll be there in a minute, and finally her grandmother takes her away from the door, and you can hear her crying as they go down the hallwaytake two pills.

When you find the rhinestone bracelet shes pushed under the door, take another.

When nobody seems to notice your bad behavior, they just smile and say, So, Misty, hows the painting coming along? its pill time.

When the headaches wont let you eat. Your pants fall down because your ass is gone. You pass a mirror and dont recognize the thin, sagging ghost you see. Your hands only stop shaking when youre holding a paintbrush or a pencil. Then take a pill. And before youre half through the bottle, Dr. Touchet leaves another bottle at the front desk with your name on it.

When you just cannot stop working. When completing this one project is all you can imagine. Then take a pill.

Because Peters right.

Youre right.

Because everything is important. Every detail. We just dont know why yet.

Everything is a self-portrait. A diary. Your whole drug historys in a strand of your hair. Your fingernails. The forensic details. The lining of your stomach is a document. The calluses on your hand tell all your secrets. Your teeth give you away. Your accent. The wrinkles around your mouth and eyes.

Everything you do shows your hand.

Peter used to say, an artists job is to pay attention, collect, organize, archive, preserve, then write a report. Document. Make your presentation. The job of an artist is just not to forget.

July 21 The Third-Quarter Moon

ANGEL DELAPORTE holds up one painting, then another, all of them watercolors. Theyre different subjects, some just the outline of a strange horizon, some of them are landscapes of sunny fields. Pine forests. The shape of a house or a village in the middle distance. In his face, only Angels eyes move, jumping back and forth on every sheet of paper.

Incredible, he says. You look terrible, but your work ... my God.

Just for the record, Angel and Misty, theyre in Oysterville. This is somebodys missing family room. Theyve crawled in through another hole to take pictures and see the graffiti.

Your graffiti.

The way Misty looks, how she cant get warm, even wearing two sweaters, her teeth chatter. How her hand shakes when she holds a picture out to Angel, she makes the stiff watercolor paper flap. Its some intestinal bug lingering from her case of food poisoning. Even here in a dim sealed room with only the light filtered through the drapes, shes wearing sunglasses.

Angel drags along his camera bag. Misty brings her portfolio. Its her old black plastic one from school, a thin suitcase with a zipper that goes around three sides so you can open it and lay it flat. Thin straps of elastic hold watercolor paintings to one side of the portfolio. On the other side, sketches are tucked in pockets of different sizes.

Angels snapping pictures while Misty opens the portfolio on the sofa. When she takes out her pill bottle, her hands shaking so much you can hear the capsules rattle inside. Pinching a capsule out of the bottle, she tells Angel, Green algae. Its for headaches. Misty puts the capsule in her mouth and says, Come look at some pictures and tell me what you think.

Across the sofa, Peters spray-painted something. His black words scrawl across framed family photos on the wall. Across needlepoint pillows. Silk lampshades. Hes pulled the pleated drapes shut and spray-painted his words across the inside of them.

You have.

Angel takes the bottle of pills out of her hand and holds it up to light from the window. He shakes the bottle, the capsules inside. He says, These are huge.

The gelatin capsule in her mouth is getting soft, and inside you can taste salt and tinfoil, the taste of blood.

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