We open our columns to talented new voices, who can send in (short) stories.
The first one is a short story by Eduardo Riccardo. It was some 30 pages he said, but now he tells us 'it would be more something like 50, even 60'. Hm. Okay. Only because we pity guys living on goat's milk and mountain herbs.
We publish it the old fashioned 19th century way: episodically.
“Satan.” He could go to hell for this. After all, it was a mortal sin he was committing. The three elements constituting one: grievous matter, sufficient reflection, full consent of the will – present, each of them. Okay, on closer inspection he might have been devoid of ‘sufficient reflection’. When he was standing at the foot of the stairs she didn’t give him a lot of time to ponder the consequences of what he was about to commit. That was true. He feels somewhat relieved. Yes, entering the gates of hell he would plead uncontrollable coercion. At the gates of hell, where it was inscribed: ‘Abandon all hope, you who enters here.” Shivers run down his spine. He looks at her. “Oh, Salomé, you come in different disguises,” he whispers.
“Did you say something?” she asks, absent-minded. She’s looking at her fingers, stretching them, as if still comparing them with the squaw’s. Musing, as if he wasn’t there, as if lost in a reverie, she says: “It was all about the rhythm. A leopard moves that way. Muzzle high, raising his legs proudly, in control… If you’ve never seen a leopard go for the kill, you don’t know what tenderness is all about.” Then, suddenly realizing he’s there, next to her: “You know what I mean, Ben?”
“You couldn’t be more clear,” he says.
“It was on National Geographic. The okapi, tall, frail. Standing on his hooves, high-set, shivering, as if he could, in a moment, run away.” The sheet gliding from her shoulders she raises on her knees. “But he knew everything, he just knew: his past, his present, and the course of things: his fate. He knew it all, Ben. He already felt this leopard, waiting there, for him, in the shadow of that tree. He knew he was there. In a way, this was his leopard. The one he had been living for. There couldn’t be any other. Years he had lived, many years… and now there he was: his leopard. The one who would inevitably, at the supreme moment, cross his path. The leopard too had no choice: it was his okapi. There would be no running. What sense did it make? They had been awaiting each other all of their life. Yes, there could be some running, just to fool around a bit, to postpone things for a while: a minute, an hour, a day, a week even? What does it matter, Ben? It could be a month, for God’s sake. It doesn’t matter.” She looks at him, her nails dug into the mattress. “This was the moment. The leopard knew. Took its time.”
He bends over, kisses her knee.
“Next moment this okapi was dying between his teeth. The leopard’s muzzle around his neck, and his eyes fading, he was in the jaws of death. In a couple of seconds it would all be over.” She’s looking towards the curtains, towards the dawn. The new day announces, full of light. Her hair, shimmering silk.
“The love in these dying eyes, and the tenderness displayed by the killing leopard. I was all wet, Ben, I had to go and change underwear. You understand?”
He nods. Dutch girls were very open about these things.
“It was as if the okapi had spent its whole life working up to this very moment. Every goddamn second of his existence he had known deep inside it would turn out like this. The fear lingering - sometimes fading, but never passing out of his life. It had always been there, somewhere. Until the leopard came, saving him from fear.”
She jumps out of bed, runs towards the window. She looks through the curtains. Clouds shattering, the sun slowly appearing, her hair glowing almost white. Hurrying back to bed, into his arms, her lashes blinking, irises reflecting the emerald wallpaper.
“The beauty of it,” she says. Growling she bends over, bites, kisses, sucks his neck. Later, in the bathroom, looking at the red spot, he wonders how he’ll be able to hide it, tomorrow when Marjorie returns. It wasn’t exactly the weather to wear scarfs. With a bit of strategic positioning, for a day or so he would manage to only show his right side though. How long did these spots last? He didn’t have much experience with them. Maybe he would pass the pharmacist. Maybe they’d have an ointment for these kinds of inconveniences. Seeing as he always sat on her left at dinner, they’d have to change sides.
“Anyway. At a certain point the hand of this debating cowboy looks like moving towards his holster. Mind that it isn’t moving yet, no, it’s as if everything: the Indians, the conversation, the prairies and mountains around, the whole world is conspiring, is aiming towards one point: the hand, cosmically, has to move towards the holster. The cowboy hasn’t got an ounce of control over it. He can like it or not, - it doesn’t make any difference. It’s his path. It’s the way of things. If he has a choice it’s only this: he can walk the path like a man, or he can try to get out of it, which he can’t, for that matter. It would make him a coward, that’s all.”
Shivers. “Jesus, I’ve got goosebumps. I need a cigarette.” The light flooding the room, her eyes still sleepy, her mouth dry. “Go and fetch me a cigarette, Ben. Just one.”
He jumps up. He brings the Dupont too he finds in her purse. He lights the cigarette. Small puffs.
“Here. Have a puff too. Don’t like to smoke alone.”
“We think there’s something called free will…” he mutters, the cigarette between his lips. On closer inspection, at the gates of hell, he will plead absence of free will too.
“But there’s none,” she says.
“A relieving thought.”
“To cut a long story short, what happens is this: the very moment the cowboy’s hand starts moving, these elegant squaw fingers tighten around the sleeping cowboy’s throat, as if laying a snare, only it isn’t a snare, because when the man, terrified, opens his eyes she gives a short twist, just a short, decisive jerk, you hear something snapping his spine, next moment - he’s dead as a mouse. The squaw looks as if nothing happened. She’s just watching the horizon, peacefully, meanwhile softly crooning, if I remember well…”
“… baby Jesus in her lap…”
“Yes, maybe. Or maybe she was wondering what she’d prepare for breakfast. That was the way she was looking. Concerned about her boys.” She squeezes out the stub on the nightstand. “Sorry I had to use that gorgeous Victorian piece of carpentry honey. Marjorie will clean it away, won’t she? Did I ask you yet if she’s a good housewife? I bet she is.” She shuffles nearer. Fingers through his chest hair. They kiss.
“At the same time, the Indians seize the cowboy by the arms, force him down. The squaw, having pushed the corpse aside, suddenly jumps on him, putting a knee on his throat, then holding a knife she has whipped out of her skirt, against his skin.”
She falls silent. Outside new clouds gathering. She asks if she can have another cigarette.
They smoke. They sit in silence. Dawn develops. Then, curled into each other, they fall asleep.
He’s half woken up by a noise. The first thing he’s aware of is his own body. His cock hard, throbbing. Desire overwhelming him, a wave, he enters her, pulling her buttocks towards him. She utters a slight, short moan, which brings him to the verge of madness. At that moment there’s a knock on the bedroom door, short, urgent, compelling.
(To be continued in couple of days.)
Take a look at
the art network on Instagram.