- Used Books
- Staff Picks
- Gifts & Gift Cards
- Sell Books
- Stores & Events
- Let's Talk Books
Special Offers see all
More at Powell's
Recently Viewed clear list
Ships in 1 to 3 days
The Body Artistby Don Delillo
Time seems to pass. The world happens, unrolling into moments, and you stop to glance at a spider pressed to its web. There is a quickness of light and a sense of things outlined precisely and streaks of running luster on the bay. You know more surely who you are on a strong bright day after a storm when the smallest falling leaf is stabbed with self-awareness. The wind makes a sound in the pines and the world comes into being, irreversibly, and the spider rides the wind-swayed web.
He sat with the newspaper, stirring his coffee. It was his coffee and his cup. They shared the newspaper but it was actually, unspokenly, hers.
"I want to say something but what."
She ran water from the tap and seemed to notice. It was the first time she'd ever noticed this.
"About the house. This is what it is," he said. "Something I meant to tell you."
She noticed how water from the tap turned opaque in seconds. It ran silvery and clear and then in seconds turned opaque and how curious it seemed that in all these months and all these times in which she'd run water from the kitchen tap she'd never noticed how the water ran clear at first and then went not murky exactly but opaque, or maybe it hadn't happened before, or she'd noticed and forgotten.
She crossed to the cabinet with the blueberries wet in her hand and reached up for the cereal and took the box to the counter, the mostly brown and white box, and then the toaster thing popped and she flipped it down again because it took two flips to get the bread to go brown and he absently nodded his acknowledgment because it was his toast and his butter and then he turned on the radio and got the weather.
The sparrows were at the feeder, wing-beating, fighting for space on the curved perches.
She reached into the near cabinet for a bowl and shook some cereal out of the box and then dropped the berries on top. She rubbed her hand dry on her jeans, feeling a sense somewhere of the color blue, runny and wan.
What's it called, the lever. She'd pressed down the lever to get his bread to go brown.
It was his toast, it was her weather. She listened to reports and called the weather number frequently and sometimes stood out front and looked into the coastal sky, tasting the breeze for latent implications.
"Yes exactly. I know what it is," he said.
She went to the fridge and opened the door. She stood there remembering something.
She said, "What?" Meaning what did you say, not what did you want to tell me.
She remembered the soya granules. She crossed to the cabinet and took down the box and then caught the fridge door before it swung shut. She reached in for the milk, realizing what it was he'd said that she hadn't heard about eight seconds ago.
Every time she had to bend and reach into the lower and remote parts of the refrigerator she let out a groan, but not really every time, that resembled a life lament. She was too trim and limber to feel the strain and was only echoing Rey, identifyingly, groaning his groan, but in a manner so seamless and deep it was her discomfort too.
Now that he'd remembered what he meant to tell her, he seemed to lose interest. She didn't have to see his face to know this. It was in the air. It was in the pause that trailed from his remark of eight, ten, twelve seconds ago. Something insignificant. He would take it as a kind of self-diminishment, bringing up a matter so trivial.
She went to the counter and poured soya over the cereal and fruit. The lever sprang or sprung and he got up and took his toast back to the table and then went for the butter and she had to lean away from the counter when he approached, her milk carton poised, so he could open the drawer and get a butter knife.
There were voices on the radio in like Hindi it sounded.
She poured milk into the bowl. He sat down and got up. He went to the fridge and got the orange juice and stood in the middle of the room shaking the carton to float the pulp and make the juice thicker. He never remembered the juice until the toast was done. Then he shook the carton. Then he poured the juice and watched a skim of sizzling foam appear at the top of the glass.
She picked a hair out of her mouth. She stood at the counter looking at it, a short pale strand that wasn't hers and wasn't his.
He stood shaking the container. He shook it longer than he had to because he wasn't paying attention, she thought, and because it was satisfying in some dumb and blameless way, for its own childlike sake, for the bounce and slosh and cardboard orange aroma.
He said, "Do you want some of this?"
She was looking at the hair.
"Tell me because I'm not sure. Do you drink juice?" he said, still shaking the damn thing, two fingers pincered at the spout.
She scraped her upper teeth over her tongue to rid her system of the complicated sense memory of someone else's hair.
She said, "What? Never drink the stuff. You know that. How long have we been living together?"
"Not long," he said.
He got a glass, poured the juice and watched the foam appear. Then he wheeled a little achingly into his chair.
"Not long enough for me to notice the details," he said.
"I always think this isn't supposed to happen here. I think anywhere but here."
He said, "What?"
"A hair in my mouth. From someone else's head."
He buttered his toast.
"Do you think it only happens in big cities with mixed populations?"
"Anywhere but here." She held the strand of hair between thumb and index finger, regarding it with mock aversion, or real aversion stretched to artistic limits, her mouth at a palsied slant. "That's what I think."
"Maybe you've been carrying it since childhood." He went back to the newspaper. "Did you have a pet dog?"
"Hey. What woke you up?" she said.
It was her newspaper. The telephone was his except when she was calling the weather. They both used the computer but it was spiritually hers.
She stood at the counter looking at the hair. Then she snapped it off her fingers to the floor. She turned to the sink and ran hot water over her hand and then took the cereal bowl to the table. Birds scattered when she moved near the window.
"I've seen you drink gallons of juice, tremendous, how can I tell you?" he said.
Her mouth was still twisted from the experience of sharing some food handler's unknown life or from a reality far stranger and more meandering, the intimate passage of the hair from person to person and somehow mouth to mouth across years and cities and diseases and unclean foods and many baneful body fluids.
"What? I don't think so," she said.
Okay, she put the bowl on the table. She went to the stove, got the kettle and filled it from the tap. He changed stations on the radio and said something she missed. She took the kettle back to the stove because this is how you live a life even if you don't know it and then she scraped her teeth over her tongue again, for emphasis, watching the flame shoot blue from the burner.
She'd had to sort of jackknife away from the counter when he approached to get the butter knife.
She moved toward the table and the birds went cracking off the feeder again. They passed out of the shade beneath the eaves and flew into sunglare and silence and it was an action she only partly saw, elusive and mutely beautiful, the birds so sunstruck they were consumed by light, disembodied, turned into something sheer and fleet and scatter-bright.
She sat down and picked through sect
What Our Readers Are Saying
Other books you might like