Alchemy

"Ferret Love"

by Brent Robison



The ferret-woman has a boyfriend, but that doesn't worry
me. He'll go away eventually, that's the way of all things. I'm very patient.
I am.

It was last spring, early, when I fell in love with the ferret-woman. The first beautiful day, exquisite whirlybird of a sunny blue day, and I'm in the park, lying on the lawn. I'm wearing my yellow-tinted shades and I've got my Walkman on, which isn't actually a Walkman because it's a JVC, but you know. So in my ears it's this Norwegian sax man wailing eerie soprano on a Cherokee chant. Above me a tree has burst into blossom, deep red; wine; blood; sacrificial stained-glass mandala patterns against the pure ice blue of the sky, all filtered ulcer yellow. I'm into alien-think. Small humans are hitting spheres with sticks of hard wood and running imaginary lines drawn in the perfect cosmic geometry of diamonds in their minds, shouting in the grass and trees and cool breeze of spring. I have no connection.

That's when the sign comes. The sky goes suddenly dull as tarnished brass, cut ragged by black limbs, and a crowd of bleating doves, a dozen, a hundred, bursts up in violent commotion, flap and flutter, wings beating air darkly straight at me and zoom, slicing just inches over my head, veering away, glancing off at odd sharp angles against bare trees and yellow sky. I'm solid sure I'm in for it now, something fierce and terrible about to strike, and I blink, flinch.

But like a cloud across the sun, the doves pass, in a whisper, all gone, and I see baby green buds on the trees, the sky all blue, no doom, no doom at all. So my heart just limps a little, skips, then it's back to lubbadubbadub, like any old day. Sigh, sweet peace, for one moment.

Then I saw her.

She was bending to let her ferrets out of their little cage-home. She wore black sneakers, high tops over bare white ankles, biker shorts tight as a shimmery second skin over her muscled ass, a tank top, prison-striped, and blunt-cut hair of some dark coffee shade almost black but for the burgundy highlights, glossy, swept straight back from a pale translucent forehead where faint blue veins were pulsing, pulsing, pulsing. I went slip-slide into hypno-land. Staresville. She kept her dark glasses on as she watched the two things slither here and there in the grass, gliding, each a foot long, the color of cream, like big penises but furry, twisting, turning, sniffing this and that, searching with those soft missile-shaped heads for some small place to sneak into, lean ropes of muscle with slanted little grins, tender baby mouths full of shards of glass, and blinking marble-like eyes, blank of expression, guiltless as newborns, evil as murder.

But then I saw the boyfriend. Sure, I was disappointed for about a crazy heartbeat. Then I grinned. He may look like James Dean at first, but anybody can see with a second glance that he's so much softer and dumber. He doesn't worry me. No way, baby.

Jamesy handed the ferret-woman a Coke. Then he nuzzled her neck and they laughed, and I saw his left index finger brush ever so lightly up the smooth black skin of her shorts just where those perfect glutius maximus muscles meet in curving shadow, glossy black on black, a panther's muscles, hot and feline and rippling at the touch of a breeze, and I know she's got sensitive skin, I can see it in the milky translucence, and just that membrane of nylon between his finger and her very self makes her shiver that lovely exquisite shiver, because there just a millimeter away, inside, between her dermis and her epidermis, there where I peer with my third eye, alien eye, are nestled thousands of sweet little bundles of yearning ganglia, dangling raw electric ends in tiny capsules shaped like eggs; I've seen them in my books, these precious Meissner's corpuscles, all full of shivery nerves that quiver and sigh at the most feather-light touch, and send floods of warm waves in tingling code to the animal brain, and I know what's happening there inside you, under the sun, shameless ferret-woman, my love.

Oh, memory, choke me. I heard myself breathe just now, sandpaper lungs, thinking about it. But that was way last spring, early. And I am patient, I really am. I'll keep standing in this cold dark alley, shivering under the fire escape, and I'll keep watching their windows. Because I'm sure, I'm absolutely, sublimely sure: she's waiting, too. I knew it the day I was bit by the Doberman, mangled in the act of ferret-defense, forever unthanked.

It was hot by then, deep wet August in the sweating park, the usual Sunday funday, me watching, slit-eye smirk of a secret sinner. She and James are kissing with that way of theirs, not tending the babies; the roaming honey-hued little weasel things would be all alone out there if not for my eagle eye, and then I see the Doberman, some guy's macho mascot off his leash. I see him with my peripheral vision, all four-legged focus, nose pointed like a finger at the squirming furry worms in the shaggy grass, and then he's walking stiff-legged, slow, and I can see in his eye that the world is shut out, there's only killing now, the blood is already dripping from his salivating tongue in his most delicious dog-brain daydream.

So then it's like slow motion, a Sam Peckinpah bloodbath. I yell NO! and jump, and Dobie lunges like a lion, shoulder muscles glinting black steel, and a rumble in his throat, but I've got him, tackled, it's Superbowl stuff, and ferrets are scurrying, and this big damned dog is still driving like a linebacker, thrust, thrust, solid lust for a jawful of squirm, but I've got him, I've got him, my babies are safe.

Dobie gets really passionately pissed. He's an angel in my arms, a lovely, delightful, ferocious fallen angel in a writhing heaven of hate, and I'm suddenly laughing while he turns on me, but not for long because his teeth like blunted scalpels rip into my right forearm with precisely, exactly, the sound and feel of my own teeth tearing into a turkey drumstick on Thanksgiving Day--the ligaments, the tendons, the muscle.

Oh my God.

But then his owner has him by his straining neck, pulling him off me, shouting, and as I slowly stand, world aslant, I see the ferret-woman has shooed our naughty little ones into their cage. She offers no help with my mangly wound, and I love her for that. She just stares, still, and Jamesy is behind her, forgotten. I think I'm leaning, a leaning tower. The sun is hot as fire on my naked skin, slimy with blood. Somewhere there's a throbbing.

Then she gives me this smile, this duplicitous smile, conspiratorial, inviting, icy, but askew, a clown grimace. It's her lipstick, all kiss-smeared sloppy scarlet, and she doesn't know it but I do, and I feel breathless. Oh, my funny dress-up virgin child, lascivious vampire whore of my secret carnal heart, I'm all pure vicious desire, and in this, this, our first sweet tender moment, I know you, have you, own you, my bloody shuddering lover with no eyes in your bone-white face, eyes dead gone behind hard lenses of onyx, opaque and shiny, where all I see is my own dim reflection, the mirror outline of a sun-rimmed head, and there where the features should be, a black hole.

I fainted. Woke up to the tilt of a stretcher, and men in white, and my love gone, gone. But they couldn't catch me, no, I jumped the fence like Batman, bleeding, and when I got home to the cool dark, to my open books with clean pages so smooth on my cheek, to my fine delicate steel in sweet-gleam array, I stitched it myself, all left-handed loony grace and perfect slippery precision. Skin like latex, cover the crime.

Pierce, pull through, breathe, repeat.

But that was then. Just the beginning. Now, like every night, I shiver, leaning on frigid stone, while my right hand, her hand, stays warm, numb, forever limp as linguini in my coat pocket. My breath is a ghost, through which I see her window, four floors up, dark. And I know just one thing, clear as TV behind my eyes--it's what I'd see if I did the one-handed fireman climb: the two of them, in her bedroom, right now.

I'm sure her bedroom is covered floor to ceiling in heavy velvet drapes, raging vivid scarlet in daylight, but of course they always look deep burgundy, rich wine, dark blood, because her bedroom never knows the day. Its dense folds of soft fabric are always in dim twilight, windows hidden for perpetual night, night in a thick haze of burning incense, a sweet and heady Egyptian musk, and now they lie there together, languid and smoky, tangled naked and pale in black sheets. I know the ferrets lie there with them, sprawled in shadows on the big dark bed in weasel repose, wicked and soft at the same time, needle teeth hidden in smiling little mouths, asleep, asleep as though they're innocent. Maybe they wake sometimes and creep and slither on paws like tiny hands, sniffing up those ivory legs to nuzzle in moist places, drunk on aroma, and nip tender flesh, and make their sweet little ferret noises, inaudible noises, the silent cry of a distant sun dying, or the still small voice of one human cell, tortured, giving up the ghost.

I am patient. James Dean will go away soon. They'll quarrel, or she'll grow bored and throw him out. Or he'll die in a hideous accident. Head first, four stories.

I can wait.
 

The End
Ferret Love © 1996 Brent Robison


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