Friday, September 09, 2005

Dark Angel


"Unsightly heretics, beswiggered and swaggered, Stand and Deliver!" The man's voice was shrill and war-torn. We spoke on the phone, but it felt as though he were in the room with me. I shivered. It was an invitation to a shared hallucination. "Sir. Don't you remember me?" I asked the man on the other end of the phone. "I was a visitor a few weeks ago. I came to see you. I married Stanton."

I didn't add that I had divorced him shortly thereafter, without Stanton's knowledge. When he was served the papers, he had not been too happy. Perhaps it didn't matter. The divorce could be set aside, and we could return to our previous state, despite the time elapsed, the searching, the pain. Suffering had its place.

"Ah, yes, you're the missy I placed on ironic feathers, and the girl-child with thanksgiving and a wet, slappy towel."

"Yes, sir." The light in the foyer where I was placing the call was flickering. Outside, a tremendous storm surged. I was a mile away from The Oasis, but we were under a tornado warning, and I was afraid to go outside in the slashing rain and wind, hail, and downed lines. It was, in fact, not too smart to be on the telephone. People had been electrocuted this way.

"You know about Jeoffry, don't you?" asked the voice. It was hesitant, suspicious.

"Yes, sir."

"Don't patronize me!" the shrill voice again.

"Sir. Your cat," I said, slowly and clearly into the phone. "Your cat, Jeoffry, 'a mixture of gravity and waggery,' correct?"

"Ah, yes. You do remember," said the voice on the phone.

"Dear little girl, don't forget to do one thing," said the voice.

"Sir, I'm not a little girl. I married your son."

"Irrelevant! Don't forget to pet the cat, stroke the fur until it crackles bright. It and only it will suffice."

"Yes, sir. Permission to ask why, sir?" I made my voice a clear and unemotional as possible.

"HaHA! Electricity, of course!" At that very moment, a burst of light illuminated the night sky like a flare, and something snapped in my ear like a percussion cap.

"Yes, sir. Jeoffry again."

"No. No and no and no. The science is for the Smart," growled the voice. "He counteracts the Devil, who is death, by brisking about the life."

"As in Christopher, sir."

"Of course." I heard a choking sound, like a grown man trying to hold back then gagging on tears.

"She has never forgiven me," he said. There was a long pause. I could hear small cracking noises, as though someone were breaking small sticks.

"She's back," I said. "She has returned to tell you that all is forgiven."

I looked at the shoebox-sized wooden container I balanced on my lap, and, sliding back the lid, I contemplated the thick golden lining and pouch. Inside, she lay, catching every possible beam of light and reflecting it back, magnified. It was the statue of Tara, carved of multi-hued jade somewhere in Laos. Was Tara a goddess? A Boddhisattva? An angel? A trick of light, electricity, and the imagination?

statue in park in reykjavik, iceland, may 2005 - photo by Susan Smith Nash

"Stroke the cat, get the sizzle back," said the voice. "Don't lie to me!"

"Life is more than electricity, sir." Lightning ripped the sky, thunder cracked and roared, and the walls shook. I was not sure I believed my own words.

There was a pause. When the voice came back on line, it was no longer shrill, not longer in the grips of a psychotic break. It was smooth, calm, rational.

"You've found Tara?"

"I'll be there after the storm breaks, sir." I paused and looked at my watch. "Count on thirty minutes."

Soon, the hostage would be delivered.

But, in its place, another would be taken. I thought of the vows I would take again soon.

My heart fluttered, my heart felt strangely light at the thought. Captivity was the purest, rarest, and possibly most dear form of intimacy.