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datatime: 2022-12-01 02:32:19 Author:cmzKTIdF

'Well, it was luck for me, all right,' he'd responded, and he had felt an extraordinary sense of well-being when he said it, and he wasn't so sure why.

Talking about his life here had been a little easier - explaining about Elizabeth and Judith, and the abortion that had destroyed his life with Judith; explaining about the last few years, and their curious emptiness, and the feeling of waiting for something, though he did not know what it was. He told about houses and how he loved them; about the kinds that existed in San Francisco, the big Queen Annes and the Italianates, the bed-and-breakfast hotel he had wanted so badly to do on Union Street, and then he had slipped into talking about the houses he really loved, the houses back there in New Orleans. He understood about ghosts in houses, because houses were more than habitats, and it was no wonder they could steal your soul.

'Well, let me tell you about one other supernatural event,' she'd said, smiling. 'It's when you've got one of those dead bodies lying on the deck of your boat, and you're slapping it around and talking to it, and suddenly the eyes do open, and the guy's alive.'

When she'd been describing the rescue to him in more detail, she had said a strange thing. She had said that a person loses consciousness almost immediately in very cold water. Yet she had been pitched right into it, and she hadn't lost consciousness. She had said only, 'I don't know how I reached the ladder, I honestly don't.'

Talking about his life here had been a little easier - explaining about Elizabeth and Judith, and the abortion that had destroyed his life with Judith; explaining about the last few years, and their curious emptiness, and the feeling of waiting for something, though he did not know what it was. He told about houses and how he loved them; about the kinds that existed in San Francisco, the big Queen Annes and the Italianates, the bed-and-breakfast hotel he had wanted so badly to do on Union Street, and then he had slipped into talking about the houses he really loved, the houses back there in New Orleans. He understood about ghosts in houses, because houses were more than habitats, and it was no wonder they could steal your soul.

'I'm not talking about doctors now. I'm talking about ordinary people in the modern world. What I'm saying is, when you look down at that body, and you realize all the life has gone out of it, and you can scream at it, and slap it around, and try to sit it up, and do every trick in the book to it, but it's dead, absolutely unequivocally dead...

Why did this other thing have to be happening? Why did this feel like stolen time?

'Exactly, but it's deeper even than that. They don't believe they're going to die Why, I have been to California memorial services where nobody even mentioned the dead guy But if you really see it... and you're not a doctor, or a nurse, or an undertaker... well, it's a first-class supernatural event, and just probably the only supernatural event you ever get to see.'

He had even gone into his crazy talk about the movies, and the recurrent images of vengeful babies and children, and the way he felt when he perceived such themes - as though everything around him was talking to him. Maybe one step from the madhouse, but he wondered if some of the people in the madhouse were there because they took the patterns they perceived too literally? What did she think? And death, well, he had a lot of thoughts about death, but first and foremost, this thought had recently struck him, even before the accident, that the death of another person is perhaps the only genuine supernatural event we ever experience.

'Well, let me tell you about one other supernatural event,' she'd said, smiling. 'It's when you've got one of those dead bodies lying on the deck of your boat, and you're slapping it around and talking to it, and suddenly the eyes do open, and the guy's alive.'

Why did this other thing have to be happening? Why did this feel like stolen time?

The sun was burning through the eastern windows and skylights. He could hear her working in the kitchen. He figured he ought to get up and help her no matter what she'd said, but she'd been pretty convincing on the subject: 'I like to cook, it's like surgery. Stay exactly where you are.'

'I know what you're saying.'

'I know what you're saying.'

He had even gone into his crazy talk about the movies, and the recurrent images of vengeful babies and children, and the way he felt when he perceived such themes - as though everything around him was talking to him. Maybe one step from the madhouse, but he wondered if some of the people in the madhouse were there because they took the patterns they perceived too literally? What did she think? And death, well, he had a lot of thoughts about death, but first and foremost, this thought had recently struck him, even before the accident, that the death of another person is perhaps the only genuine supernatural event we ever experience.

But the point was, he had to leave, and he didn't want to. And it made him sad suddenly, sad and almost desperate, as if they were somehow doomed, he and she.

He didn't tell her about the weeds in the gutters, the men sitting on the steps with their cans of beer, the smell of boiled cabbage that never went away, the riverfront trains rattling the windows.

'I'm not talking about doctors now. I'm talking about ordinary people in the modern world. What I'm saying is, when you look down at that body, and you realize all the life has gone out of it, and you can scream at it, and slap it around, and try to sit it up, and do every trick in the book to it, but it's dead, absolutely unequivocally dead...

'I'm not talking about doctors now. I'm talking about ordinary people in the modern world. What I'm saying is, when you look down at that body, and you realize all the life has gone out of it, and you can scream at it, and slap it around, and try to sit it up, and do every trick in the book to it, but it's dead, absolutely unequivocally dead...

She had reflected for a moment. Then she had said, 'Yes, and no. I mean maybe it was just luck.'

Talking about his life here had been a little easier - explaining about Elizabeth and Judith, and the abortion that had destroyed his life with Judith; explaining about the last few years, and their curious emptiness, and the feeling of waiting for something, though he did not know what it was. He told about houses and how he loved them; about the kinds that existed in San Francisco, the big Queen Annes and the Italianates, the bed-and-breakfast hotel he had wanted so badly to do on Union Street, and then he had slipped into talking about the houses he really loved, the houses back there in New Orleans. He understood about ghosts in houses, because houses were more than habitats, and it was no wonder they could steal your soul.

He had even gone into his crazy talk about the movies, and the recurrent images of vengeful babies and children, and the way he felt when he perceived such themes - as though everything around him was talking to him. Maybe one step from the madhouse, but he wondered if some of the people in the madhouse were there because they took the patterns they perceived too literally? What did she think? And death, well, he had a lot of thoughts about death, but first and foremost, this thought had recently struck him, even before the accident, that the death of another person is perhaps the only genuine supernatural event we ever experience.

When she'd been describing the rescue to him in more detail, she had said a strange thing. She had said that a person loses consciousness almost immediately in very cold water. Yet she had been pitched right into it, and she hadn't lost consciousness. She had said only, 'I don't know how I reached the ladder, I honestly don't.'

As for her having been born down south, it had nothing to do with it. His head was full of too many images from his past, and the sense of destiny that united these images was too strong for it to have come from some random reminder of his home through her. Besides, on the deck of the boat last night, he'd caught nothing of that. Knowing her, yes, that was there, but even that was suspect, he still believed, because there was no profound recognition, no 'Ah yes,' when she told him her story. Only positive fascination. Nothing scientific about this power of his; might be physical, yes, and measurable finally, and even controllable through some numbing drug, but it wasn't scientific. It was more like art or music.

Now he lay on the rug, thinking how much he liked her and how much her sadness and her aloneness disturbed him, and how much he didn't want to leave her, and that nevertheless, he had to go.

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