excerpt : Mopus
I eat, you drink, we smoke, they sleep and wake, talk and sit. Now I, Regina, a temporary self or not, will go home and take Asa to my bed. And do not talk to me of the supernatural or the causal links between imagination and desire, will, magic, constructed truth, god, the invention of the unconscious, the invention of nations, the invention of time, the invention of love. Did death make culture to distract us while we die? What invented death? Do we have a priori qualities? Or are we slates erased? All these questions, let them fall.
The sun rises on all five of them snoozing in the café chairs on the flagstones of the plaza. Somewhere in the early morning they'd drifted from discourse into dreams.
A waiter's shining shoes tick tock. He totals up the bill and makes it prominent on the table, which he clears. Clank and tinkle of silverware and cups. Slumped in their seats, nobody stirs.
The sun inches up over the rim of the courtyard roof. Nothing but deep breathing. Asa's head reposes in Regina's lap. Bluebottle's forehead rests on the table, on a winning hand of Hearts. Pigeons descend to snack on late-night crumbs, stray cats chase them away. Prams rush by, with parents behind them. The town clock bangs the hour, a phone rings, cars honk around the concourse of the plaza. They slumber. Train whistle blows.
Bluebottle's eyes open wide. Blur of cards before him. He sits back abruptly. Sees the clocktower. Checks the bill and shifts it over to Asa.
I am in, he thinks, that alert state of early morning: little sleep, too much midnight coffee. Soon this fades and he falls asleep again, but by that time he's on a train bound for Rodez.
Asa sees him to the station, they embrace, promises of letters, phone calls. All is said and done, Bluebottle's off, punching through the tundra of sage brush and cacti in a high-speed train, shooting past low lonely tortured trees. An old man from Rumford sits across from him and together they reminisce until Bluebottle goes into the corridor to get some air.
Landscape split in two by the train. He gazes out from inside the moving line. Both sides of the track are dry, troubled with boulder erratics, wide vista. Far ahead, the track curves and begins to rise into fog-laden mountains.
Bluebottle returns to his compartment, the old man is gone. The train approaches night and plunges in. It climbs the mountainside. Bluebottle dozes and the lights go dim, flicker, go off, come on again dimly, this time tinted orange.
The door slides open, a man and woman step in. They flash badges. Passport. He hands it over. Driver's license. Gloved hands peruse his documents. Chins stroked. They peer at him in the orange shadow.
We're looking for a ghost. You're not him.
What's he look like?
Like you. He must be stopped.
What did he do?
But they're gone.
Bluebottle locks the door, the train swings back and forth. His lids drop, rise, drop and seal.
The train throws itself up the mountains, switchbacks, thunders on into little valleys, past sleeping villages, and up the slopes again, past mountain goats. The villagers dream of passing thunder, or exodus, passengers dream of biomorphs, cradles, sheep. The mountain goats eat night grass and stare pop-eyed at the illuminated beast that rages by and never stops to eat them up. The train dreams of the Himalayas.
Bluebottle sleeps through the night and all the next day. He wakes up in the evening and walks up the swaying cabins. He opens a door and the wind comes at him full of eucalyptus. He opens the door ahead and enters the next car. Silence, rocking. He goes on, past the heads bent over newspapers, avoiding briefcases, looking for the food car.
A face looks up from its newspaper. His sister.
Bluebottle blacks out instantly and instantly comes to, the hand in his stomach pinches, his legs shake, the world is white in his blown pupils.
He turns slowly away and weaves down the shifting aisle. The train skims along as before.
He looks back. She's coming after him, her eyes fixed on him. She's younger than before. Adolescent. Leaner, more dangerous. Her eyes are awful. Poached eyes on ghost.
Bluebottle pushes through the door. Outside.
Inside. Halfway down the aisle he hears the same door hissing open and closed.
He turns. She's after him. Bluebottle speeds up. The hand in his stomach advances up his throat. Another door. Another car. She's still behind him. Bluebottle begins to run.
Bursting out of a third door, he sees the track speeding away. He's at the end of the train.
There's a ladder to his left. He grabs it and climbs.
He hauls himself onto the roof and falls, then kneels. He sees the tube of train to its vanishing point where it flexes and coils through a forest of eucalyptus trees. The pale moon is huge and glamorous. The sky darkens.
Bluebottle crawls slowly into the wind, clawing at the steel beneath him. He keeps his head down and plows forward. Reaching the end of the car he looks up.
Her face faces him at the top of a ladder, glowing weirdly in the dusk.
Where's my dog? he shouts. But the wind grabs his words and whips them down the track. He loses his grip and skitters backwards. The train takes a curve and he falls. Sky and ground lock together.
grew up in Maine. He lives with his wife in Montreal.
was published in 2008 by Counterpath Press
to whom Gone Lawn is thankful for their kind permission to reprint this excerpt. You can find Mopus
and other titles on their