5 :


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June 29 The New Moon 6

Her husband gave her.

You gave her.

All afternoon in the sealed laundry room, the words written around the walls said: ... will not steal our world to replace the world youve ruined ...

And Angel said, The handwriting is different here. Its changing. He snapped another picture and cranked to the next frame of film, saying, Do you know what order your husband worked on these houses?

Misty told Angel how a new owner should move in only after the full moon. According to carpenter tradition, the first to enter a new house should always be the familys favorite pet. Then should enter the familys cornmeal, the salt, the broom, the Bible, and the crucifix. Only then can the family and their furniture move in. According to superstition.

And Angel, snapping pictures, said, What? The cornmeals supposed to walk in by itself?

Beverly Hills, the Upper East Side, Palm Beach, these days, Angel Delaporte says, even the best part of any city is just a deluxe luxury suite in hell. Outside your front gates, you still have to share the same gridlocked streets. You and the homeless drug addicts, you still breathe the same stinking air and hear the same police helicopters chasing criminals all night. The stars and moon erased by the lights from a million used car lots. Everyone crowds the same sidewalks, scattered with garbage, and sees the same sunrise bleary and red behind smog.

Angel says that rich people dont like to tolerate much. Money gives you permission to just walk away from everything that isnt pretty and perfect. You cant put up with anything less than lovely. You spend your life running, avoiding, escaping.

That quest for something pretty. A cheat. A cliche. Flowers and Christmas lights, its what were programmed to love. Someone young and lovely. The women on Spanish television with big boobs and a tiny waist like theyve been twisted three times. The trophy wives eating lunch at the Waytansea Hotel.

The words on the walls say: ... you people with your ex-wives and stepchildren, your blended families and failed marriages, youve ruined your world and now you want to ruin mine ...

The trouble is, Angel says, were running out of places to hide. Its why Will Rogers used to tell people to buy land: Nobodys making it anymore.

This is why every rich person has discovered Waytansea Island this summer.

It used to be Sun Valley, Idaho. Then it was Sedona, Arizona. Aspen, Colorado. Key West, Florida. Lahaina, Maui. All of them crowded with tourists and the natives left waiting tables. Now its Waytansea Island, the perfect escape. For everyone except the people already living there.

The words say: ... you with your fast cars stuck in traffic, your rich food that makes you fat, your houses so big you always feel lonely ...

And Angel says, See here, how his writing is crowded. The letters are squeezed together. He snaps a picture, cranks the film, and says, Peters very frightened of something.

Mr. Angel Delaporte, hes flirting, putting his hand over hers. He gives her the flask until its empty. All this is just fine so long as he doesnt sue her like all your other clients from the mainland. All the summer people who lost bedrooms and linen closets. Everybody whose toothbrush you stuck up your butt. Half the reason why Misty gifted the house so fast to the Catholics was so nobody could put a lien against it.

Angel Delaporte says our natural instinct is to hide. As a species, we claim ground and defend it. Maybe we migrate, to follow the weather or some animal, but we know it takes land to live, and our instinct is to stake our claim.

Its why birds sing, to mark their territory. Its why dogs pee.

Sedona, Key West, Sun Valley, the paradox of a half million people going to the same place to be alone.

Misty still tracing the black paint with her index finger, she says, What did you mean when you talked about Stendhal syndrome?

And still snapping pictures, Angel says, Its named after the French writer Stendhal.

The words shes tracing, they say, ... Misty Wilmot will send you all to hell ...

Your words. You fucker.

Stanislavski was right, you can find fresh pain every time you discover what you pretty much already know.

Stendhal syndrome, Angel says, is a medical term. Its when a painting, or any work of art, is so beautiful it overwhelms the viewer. Its a form of shock. When Stendhal toured the Church of Santa Croce in Florence in 1817, he reported almost fainting from joy. People feel rapid heart palpitations. They get dizzy. Looking at great art makes you forget your own name, forget even where youre at. It can bring on depression and physical exhaustion. Amnesia. Panic. Heart attack. Collapse.

Just for the record, Misty thinks Angel Delaporte is a little full of shit.

If you read contemporary accounts, he says, Maura Kincaids work supposedly brought about a kind of mass hysteria.

And now? Misty says.

And Angel shrugs, Search me. He says, From what Ive seen, its okay, just some very pretty landscapes.

Looking at her finger, he says, Do you feel anything? He snaps another picture and says, Funny how tastes change.

... were poor, Peters words say, but we have what every rich person craves ... peace, beauty, quiet ...

Your words.

Your life after death.

Going home tonight, its Will Tupper who gives Misty the beer in the paper bag. He lets her drink on deck despite the rules. He asks if shes working on any paintings lately. Any landscapes, maybe?

On the ferryboat, the man with the dog, he says the dogs trained to find dead people. When somebody dies, they give off this huge stink of what the man calls epinephrine. He said its the smell of fear.

The beer in the brown bag Misty is holding, she just drinks it and lets him talk.

The mans hair, the way it recedes above each temple, the way the skin on his exposed scalp is bright red from the cold wind, it looks like he has devils horns. He has devils horns, and his whole face is red and squinting into wrinkles. Dynamic wrinkling. Lateral canthal rhytides.

The dog twists his head back over one shoulder, trying to get away from her. The mans aftershave has the smell of cloves. Hooked on his belt, under the edge of his jacket, you can see a pair of chromed handcuffs.

Just for the record, the weather today is increasing turmoil with a possible physical and emotional breakdown.

Holding his dogs leash, the man says, Are you sure youre okay?

And Misty tells him, Trust me, Im not dead.

Maybe just my skins dead, she says.

Stendhal syndrome. Epinephrine. Graphology. The coma of details. Of education.

The man nods at her beer in the brown paper bag, and he says, You know youre not supposed to drink in public?

And Misty says, What? Is he a cop?

And he says, You know? As a matter of fact, yeah, I am.

The guy flips open his wallet to flash her a badge. Engraved on the silver badge, it says: Clark Stilton. Detective. Seaview County Hate Crimes Task Force .

July 13 The Full Moon

TABBI AND MISTY, theyre walking through the woods. This is the tangle of land out on Waytansea Point. Its alders here, generations of trees grown and fallen and sprouting again out of their own dead. Animals, maybe deer, have cut a path that winds around the heaps of complicated trees and edges between rocks big as architecture and padded with thick moss. Above all this, the alder leaves come together in a shifting bright green sky.

Here and there, sunlight breaks through in shafts as big around as crystal chandeliers. Heres just a messier version of the lobby of the Waytansea Hotel.

Tabbi wears a single old earring, gold filigree and a haze of sparkling red rhinestones around a red enameled heart. Its pinned through her pink sweatshirt, like a brooch, but its the earring that Peters blond friend tore out of his ear. Will Tupper from the ferry.

Your friend.

She keeps the junk jewelry in a shoe box under her bed and wears it on special days. The chipped glass rubies pinned to her shoulder glitter with the bright green above them. The rhinestones, spotted with dirt, they reflect pink from Tabbis sweatshirt.

Your wife and kid, they step over a rotting log thats crawling with ants, stepping around ferns that brush Mistys waist and flop on Tabbis face. Theyre quiet, looking and listening for birds, but theres nothing. No birds. No little frogs. No sounds except the ocean, the hiss and burst of waves somewhere else.

They push through a thicket of green stalks, something with soft yellow leaves rotting around its base. You have to look down with every step because the grounds slippery and puddled with water. How long Mistys been walking, keeping her eyes on the ground, holding branches so they dont whip Tabbi, Misty doesnt know how long, but when she looks up, a mans standing there.

Just for the record, her levator labii muscles, the snarl muscles, the fight-or-flight muscles, all spasm, all those smooth muscles freeze into the landscape of growling, Mistys mouth squared so all her teeth show.

Her hand grabs the back of Tabbis shirt. Tabbi, shes still looking down at the ground, walking forward, and Misty yanks her back.

And Tabbi slips and pulls her mother to the ground, saying, Mom.

Tabbi pressed to the wet ground, the leaves and moss and beetles, Misty crouched over her, the ferns arch above them.

The man is maybe another ten steps ahead, and facing away from them. He doesnt turn. Through the curtain of ferns, he must be seven feet tall, dark and heavy with brown leaves in his hair and mud splashed up his legs.

He doesnt turn, but he doesnt move. He mustve heard them, and he stands, listening.

Just for the record, hes naked. His naked butt is right there.

Tabbi says, Let go, Mom. Theres bugs.

And Misty shushes her.

The man waits, frozen, one hand held out at waist height as if hes feeling the air for movement. No birds sing.

Mistys crouched, squatting with her hands open against the muddy ground, ready to grab Tabbi and run.

Then Tabbi slips past her, and Misty says, No. Reaching fast, Misty clutches the air behind her kid.

Its one, maybe two seconds before Tabbi gets to the man, puts her hand in his open hand.

In that two seconds, Misty knows shes a shitty mother.

Peter, you married a coward. Mistys still here, crouched. If anything, Mistys leaning back, ready to run the other way. What they dont teach you in art school is hand-to-hand combat.

And Tabbi turns back, smiling, and says, Mom, dont be such a spaz. She wraps both her hands around the mans one outstretched hand and pulls herself up so she can swing her legs in the air. She says, Its just Apollo, is all.

Near the man, almost hidden in fallen leaves, is a dead body. A pale white breast with fine blue veins. A severed white arm.

And Mistys still crouched here.

Tabbi drops from the mans hand and goes to where Mistys looking. She brushes leaves off a dead white face and says, This is Diana.

She looks at Misty crouching and rolls her eyes. Theyre statues, Mom.


Tabbi comes back to take Mistys hand. She lifts her moms arm and pulls her to her feet, saying, You know? Statues . Youre the artist.

Tabbi pulls her forward. The standing man is dark bronze, streaked with lichen and tarnish, a naked man with his feet bolted to a pedestal buried in the bushes beside the trail. His eyes have recessed irises and pupils, Roman irises, cast into them. His bare arms and legs are perfect in proportion to his torso. The golden mean of composition. Every rule of art and proportion applied.

The Greeks formula for why we love what we love. More of that art school coma.

The woman on the ground is broken white marble. Tabbis pink hand brushes the leaves and grass back from the long white thighs, the coy folds of the pale marble groin meet at a carved leaf. The smooth fingers and arms, the elbows without a wrinkle or crease. Her carved marble hair hangs in sculpted white curls.

Tabbi points her pink hand at an empty pedestal across the path from the bronze, and she says, Diana fell down a long time before I met her.

The mans bronze calf muscle feels cold, but cast with every tendon defined, every muscle thick. As Misty runs her hand up the cold metal leg, she says, Youve been here before?

Apollo doesnt have a dick, Tabbi says. I already looked.

And Misty yanks her hand back from the leaf cast over the statues bronze crotch. She says, Who brought you here?

Granmy, Tabbi says. Granmy brings me here all the time.

Tabbi stoops to rub her cheek against the smooth marble cheek of the Diana.

The bronze statue, Apollo, it must be a nineteenth-century reproduction. Either that or late eighteenth century. It cant be real, not an actual Greek or Roman piece. It would be in a museum.

Why are these here? Misty says. Did your grandmother tell you?

And Tabbi shrugs. She holds out her hand toward Misty and says, Theres more. She says, Come, and I can show you.

There is more.

Tabbi leads her through the woods that circle the point, and they find a sundial lying in the weeds, crusted a thick dark green with verdigris. They find a fountain as wide across as a swimming pool, but filled with windfall branches and acorns.

They walk past a grotto dug into a hillside, a dark mouth framed in mossy pillars and blocked with a chained iron gate. The cut stone is fitted into an arch that rises to a keystone in the middle. Fancy as a little bank building. The front of a moldy, buried state capitol building. Its cluttered with carved angels that hold stone garlands of apples, pears, and grapes. Stone wreaths of flowers. All of it streaked with dirt, its cracked and pried apart by tree roots.

In between are plants that shouldnt be here. A climbing rose chokes an oak tree, scrambling up fifty feet to bloom above the trees crown. Withered yellow tulip leaves are wilted in the summer heat. A towering wall of sticks and leaves turns out to be a huge lilac bush.

Tulips and lilacs arent native to here.

None of this should be here.

In the meadow at the center of the point, they find Grace Wilmot sitting on a blanket spread over the grass. Around her bloom pink and blue bachelor buttons and little white daisies. The wicker picnic hamper is open, and flies buzz over it.

Grace rises to her knees, holding out a glass of red wine, and says, Misty, youre back. Come take this.

Misty takes the wine and drinks some. Tabbi showed me the statues, Misty says. What used to be here?

Grace gets to her feet and says, Tabbi, get your things. Its time for us to go.

Tabbi picks up her sweater off the blanket.

And Misty says, But we just got here.

Grace hands her a plate with a sandwich on it and says, Youre going to stay and eat. Youre going to have the whole day to do your art.

The sandwich is chicken salad, and it feels warm from sitting in the sun. The flies landed on it, but it smells okay. So Misty takes a bite.

Grace nods at Tabbi and says, It was Tabbis idea.

Misty chews and swallows. She says, Its a sweet idea, but I didnt bring any supplies.

And Tabbi goes to the picnic hamper and says, Granmy did. We packed them to surprise you.

Misty drinks some wine.

Anytime some well-meaning person forces you to demonstrate you have no talent and rubs your nose in the fact youre a failure at the only dream you ever had, take another drink. Thats the Misty Wilmot Drinking Game.

Tabbi and I are going on a mission, Grace says.

And Tabbi says, Were going to tag sales .

The chicken salad tastes funny. Misty chews and swallows and says, This sandwich has a weird taste.

Thats just cilantro, Grace says. She says, Tabbi and I have to find a sixteen-inch platter in Lenoxs Silver Wheat Spray pattern. She shuts her eyes and shakes her head, saying, Why is it that no one wants their serving pieces until their pattern is discontinued?

Tabbi says, And Granmy is going to buy me my birthday present. Anything I want.

Now, Misty is going to be stuck out here on Waytansea Point with two bottles of red wine and a batch of chicken salad. Her heap of paints and watercolors and brushes and paper, she hasnt touched them since her kid was a baby. The acrylics and oils have to be hard by now. The watercolors, dried up and cracked. The brushes stiff. All of it useless.

Misty included.

Grace Wilmot holds her hand out and says, Tabbi, come along. Lets leave your mother to enjoy her afternoon.

Tabbi takes her grandmothers hand, and the two of them start back across the meadow to the dirt road where they left the car parked.

The suns warm. The meadows up high enough that you can look down and see the waves hiss and burst on the rocks below. Down the coastline, you can see the town. The Waytansea Hotel is a smudge of white clapboard. You can almost see the little dormer windows of the attic rooms. From here, the island looks pleasant and perfect, not crowded and busy with tourists. Ugly with billboards. It looks how the island mustve looked before the rich summer people arrived. Before Misty arrived. You can see why people born here never move away. You can see why Peter was so ready to protect it.

Mom, Tabbi calls out.

Shes running back from her grandmother. Both her hands are clutching at her pink sweatshirt. Panting and smiling, she gets to where Misty is sitting on the blanket. The gold filigree earring in her hands, she says, Hold still.

Misty holds still. A statue.

And Tabbi stoops to pin the earring through her mothers earlobe, saying, I almost forgot until Granmy reminded me. She says youll need this. The knees of her blue jeans are muddy and stained green from when Misty panicked and pulled them to the ground, when Misty tried to save her.

Misty says, You want a sandwich to take with you, honey?

And Tabbi shakes her head, saying, Granmy told me not to eat them. Then she turns and runs away, waving one arm over her head until shes gone.

July 14

ANGEL HOLDS THE SHEET of watercolor paper, pinching the corners with the tips of his fingers. He looks at it and looks at Misty and says, You drew a chair?

Misty shrugs and says, Its been years. It was the first thing that came to me.

Angel turns his back to her, holding the picture so the sunlight hits it from different angles. Still looking at it, he says, Its good. Its very good. Where did you find the chair?

I drew it from my imagination, Misty says, and she tells him about being stranded out on Waytansea Point all day with just her paints and two bottles of wine.

Angel squints at the picture, holding it so close hes almost cross-eyed, and he says, It looks like a Hershel Burke. Angel looks at her and says, You spent the day in a grassy meadow and imagined a Hershel Burke Renaissance Revival armchair?

This morning, a woman in Long Beach called to say she was repainting her laundry room so theyd better come see Peters mess before she got started.

Right now, Misty and Angel are in the missing laundry room. Mistys sketching the fragments of Peters doodles. Angels supposed to be photographing the walls. The minute Misty opened her portfolio to take out a sketch pad, Angel saw the little watercolor and asked to see it. Sunlight comes through a window of frosted glass, and Angel holds the picture in that light.

Spray-painted across the window, it says: ... set foot on our island and youll die ...

Angel says, Its a Hershel Burke, I swear. From 1879 Philadelphia. Its twin is in the Vanderbilt country house, Biltmore.

It mustve stuck in Mistys memory from Art History 101, or the Survey of Decorative Arts 236 or some other useless class from art school. Maybe she saw it on television, a video tour of famous houses on some public television program. Who knows where an idea comes from. Our inspiration. Why do we imagine what we imagine.

Misty says, Im lucky I drew anything. I got so sick. Food poisoning.

Angels looking at the picture, turning it. The corrugator muscle between his eyebrows contracts into three deep wrinkles. His glabellar furrows. His triangularis muscle pulls his lips until marionette lines run down from each corner of his mouth.

Sketching the doodles off the walls, Misty doesnt tell Angel about the stomach cramps. That entire sucky afternoon, she tried to sketch a rock or a tree, and crumpled the paper, disgusted. She tried to sketch the town in the distance, the church steeple and clock on the library, but crumpled that. She crumpled a shitty picture of Peter she tried to draw from memory. She crumpled a picture of Tabbi. Then, a unicorn. She drank a glass of wine and looked for something new to ruin with her lack of talent. Then ate another chicken salad sandwich with its weird cilantro taste.

Even the idea of walking into the dim woods to sketch a falling, crumbling statue made the little hairs stand up behind her neck. The fallen sundial. That locked grotto. Christ. Here in the meadow, the sun was warm. The grass was humming with bugs. Somewhere beyond the woods, the ocean waves hissed and burst.

Just looking into the dark edges of the forest, Misty could imagine the towering bronze man parting the brush with his stained arms and watching her with his pitted blind eyes. As if hes killed the marble Diana and cut the body to pieces, Misty could see him stalking out of the treeline toward her.

According to the rules of the Misty Wilmot Drinking Game, when you start thinking a naked bronze statue is going to bend its metal arms around you and crush you to death with its kiss while you claw your fingernails off and beat your hands bloody against its mossy chestwell, its time you took another drink.

When you find yourself half naked and shitting in a little hole you dig behind a bush, then wiping your ass with a linen hotel napkin, then take another drink.

The stomach cramps hit, and Misty was sweating. Her head spiked in pain with every heartbeat. Her guts shifted, and she couldnt drop her underwear fast enough. The mess splashed around her shoes and against her legs. The smell gagged her, and Misty pitched forward, her open hands against the warm grass, the little flowers. Black flies found her from miles away, crawling up and down her legs. Her chin dropped to her chest, and a double handful of pink vomit heaved out on the ground.

When you find yourself, a half hour later, with shit still running down your leg, a cloud of flies around you, take another drink.

Misty doesnt tell Angel any of that part.

Her sketching and him taking pictures here in the missing laundry room, he says, What can you tell me about Peters father?

Peters dad, Harrow. Misty loved Peters dad. Misty says, Hes dead. Why?

Angel snaps another picture and cranks the film forward in his camera. He nods at the writing on the wall and says, The way a person makes their i means so much. The first stroke means their attachment to their mother. The second stroke, the downstroke, means their father.

Peters dad, Harrow Wilmot, everybody called him Harry. Misty only met him the one time she came to visit before they were married. Before Misty got pregnant. Harry took her on a long tour of Waytansea Island, walking and pointing out the peeling paint and saggy roofs on the big shingled houses. Using a car key, he picked loose mortar from between the granite blocks of the church. They saw how the Merchant Street sidewalks were cracked and buckled. The storefronts streaked with growing mold. The closed hotel looked black inside, most of it gutted by a fire. The outside, shabby with its window screens rusted dark red. The shutters crooked. The gutters sagging. Harrow Wilmot kept saying, Shirtsleeves to shirtsleeves in three generations. He said, No matter how well we invest it, this is how long the money ever lasts.

Peters father died after Misty went back to college.

And Angel says, Can you get me a sample of his handwriting?

Misty keeps sketching the doodles, and she says, I dont know.

Just for the record, being smeared with shit and naked in the wilderness, spattered with pink vomit, this does not necessarily make you a real artist.

And neither do hallucinations. Out on Waytansea Point, with the cramps and the sweat rolling out of her hair and down the sides of her face, Misty started seeing things. With the hotel napkins she was trying to clean herself up. She rinsed her mouth with wine. Waved away the cloud of flies. The vomit still burned in her nose. Its stupid, too stupid to tell Angel, but the shadows at the edge of the forest moved.

The metal face was there in the trees. The figure took a step forward and the terrible weight of its bronze foot sunk into the soft edge of the meadow.

If you go to art school, you know a bad hallucination. You know what a flashback is. Youve done plenty of chemicals that can stay in your fatty tissues, ready to flood your bloodstream with bad dreams in broad daylight.

The figure took another step, and its foot sunk into the ground. The sun made its arms bright green in places, dull brown in other places. The top of its head and its shoulders were heaped white with bird shit. The muscles in each bronze thigh stood up, tensed in high relief as each leg lifted, and the figure stepped forward. With each step, the bronze leaf shifted between its thighs.

Now, looking at the watercolor picture sitting on top of Angels camera bag, its more than embarrassing. Apollo, the god of love. Misty sick and drunk. The naked soul of a horny middle-aged artist.

The figure coming another step closer. A stupid hallucination. Food poisoning. It naked. Misty naked. Both of them filthy in the circle of trees around the meadow. To clear her head, to make it go away, Misty started sketching. To concentrate. It was a drawing of nothing. Her eyes closed, and Misty put the pencil to the pad of watercolor paper and felt it scratching there, laying down straight lines, rubbing with the side of her thumb to create shaded contour.

Automatic writing.

When her pencil stopped, Misty was done. The figure was gone. Her stomach felt better. The mess had dried enough she could brush the worst of it away and bury the napkins, her ruined underwear, and her crumpled drawings. Tabbi and Grace arrived. Theyd found their missing teacup or cream pitcher or whatever. By then the wine was gone. Misty was dressed and smelling a little better.

Tabbi said, Look. For my birthday, and held out her hand to show a ring shining on one finger. A square green stone, cut to sparkle. Its a peridot, Tabbi said, and she held it above her head, making it catch the sunset.

Misty fell asleep in the car, wondering where the money came from, Grace driving them back along Division Avenue to the village.

It wasnt until later that Misty looked at the sketch pad. She was as surprised as anybody. After that, Misty just added a few colors, watercolors. Its amazing what the subconscious mind will create. Something from her growing up, some picture from art history lessons.

The predictable dreams of poor Misty Kleinman.

Angel says something.

Misty says, Pardon?

And Angel says, What will you take for this?

He means money. A price. Misty says, Fifty? Misty says, Fifty dollars ?

This picture Misty drew with her eyes closed, naked and scared, drunk and sick to her stomach, its the first piece of art shes ever sold. Its the best thing Misty has ever done.

Angel opens his wallet and takes out two twenties and a ten. He says, Now what else can you tell me about Peters father?

For the record, walking out of the meadow, there were two deep holes next to the path. The holes were a couple of feet apart, too big to be footprints, too far apart to be a person. A trail of holes went back into the forest, too big, too far apart to be anybody walking. Misty doesnt tell Angel that. Hed think she was crazy. Crazy, like her husband.

Like you, dear sweet Peter.

Now, all thats left of her food poisoning is a pounding headache.

Angel holds the picture close to his nose and sniffs. He scrunches his nose and sniffs it again, then slips the picture into a pocket on the side of his camera bag. He catches her watching and says, Oh, dont mind me. I thought for a second I smelled shit.

July 15

IF THE FIRST MAN who looks at your boobs in four years turns out to be a cop, take a drink. If it turns out he already knows what you look like naked, take another drink.

Make that drink a double.

Some guy sits at table eight in the Wood and Gold Room, just some your-aged guy. Hes beefy with stooped shoulders. His shirt fits okay, a little tight across his gut, a white poly-cotton balloon that bumps over his belt a little. His hair, hes balding at the temples, and his recessions trail back into long triangles of scalp above each eye. Each triangle is sunburned bright red, making long pointed devils horns that poke up from the top of his face. Hes got a little spiral notebook open on the table, and hes writing in it while he watches Misty. Hes wearing a striped tie and a navy blue sport coat.

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