The Mirrors (part forty-seven)
Well, no, Godfrey. He wants you to die, by whatever means nature inflicts. He wants to know if you can bear another needle. Just when you’ve gone to seeing armies of phantoms stalk you, lunge at the corners of your eyes, gone to shake at the knees, bowl side-to-side as you beg…
And the air you suck in saws, grates, screams…
“You’re filthy, God.”
“Why don’t I throttle you?”
How this question stimulates; how the face says, ah, yes, why not indeed?
“I’m far from alone here. I can press the bell this instant. I suppose if you were determined, you might seize some object…” Grandfather looks around, pausing over the mirror more than the letter-knife. “But your suffering can hardly be lightened by…
“Exertion,” he decides. “I don’t know that. The interesting thing is that only you can say. Fiends like yourself, and the rest of us, the normal, have no intersection of experience. You want the needle. And I want you to go to the washroom and alleviate some of your stink. Then we will dine. You will tell me if you have no appetite, if that is what your state culminates to…”
At the brink.
All this is sincere. Grandfather makes notes.
But the angel never leaves. Grandfather has judged and wishes death on you. You are going to steal from Charleton.
Of his downstairs rooms your cousin has made a blank. Here is a strange sort of luxury, that fits can be thrown, inherited things cast away, grand gestures be…
What else? Indulged. A man who can, wade through his sloppy broodings, glare at his aunt-sister. Who’s gone missing, Godfrey notes. Glare at Lil, tell himself he’ll sell her, let her be bought for the gilt that frames her; sell the overflow of his grandmother’s furniture, dragged from the institute when the rooms were filled instead with filing cabinets.
“Kill yourself,” Godfrey says. In a whisper, sent up the parlor chimney.
Clyde, slow of wit, desperate for religion, admires Charleton. As if the lie about charity wasn’t plain enough. For Leonce, careful at it (a man like Leonce can only beam, slip Clyde dollar coins, delighted such a cabbage-head exists in the world), Clyde had found simple words for the saintliness of Charleton’s acts.
Charleton at St. Hubert, Godfrey’s empty legacy. Laboring, rather than kill himself, to die in service to his country. Dull material for thought, cousin Charleton, and the intruder shrugs him away. Why should the door to the surgery be locked inside the house? Likely, Godfrey thinks, it isn’t. He decides he has no confrontation to wait upon.
You and I, Charleton. He moves to the kitchen, eye out for a box or sack…
I’ll take it all, and then I’ll take it all.
When your family thinks you’re dead, it’s you they don’t think of.
Charmante began to find earth under her feet. Charleton was a moving picture, his sufferings waves of reaction. Godfrey forced the watcher into himself, a pillbox view from a foul, degraded trench, one that held some fascination…
And invited a terrible pity. But this hold, too, faltered away.
(2020, Stephanie Foster)