(So OK, it goes on a little long. Nechtr's lover-cold passion, unleashed, will admit no minimalist imperative, Magda knows.)
But so no. He apologizes. He'd love to buy lunch. He'd love to see the counterfeiter who sat on his head hopping up and down on something pointy till the end of time. He'd love to help Jack Lord maintain order. The famous Warden may have anything but what is his. This is his.
This last number is, believe it or not, a monologue, a ring-tailed kitty of a bitch to pull off, made somehow more powerful for us in class by the pathetically unself-conscious sentimentality with which a healthy but simple and kind of fucked-up boy reveals to us colleagues, and to his teacher, Magda's old lover, J.D.'s crafty client, something as obviously hidden as a nose, today.
Except but so does Dave rat? is the question Mark Nechtr's unfinished and basically unfinishable piece leaves the E.C.T. workshop with. Does the archer maybe rat, finally, after all? Sure doesn't look that way. But Ambrose invites us to listen closely to the kidnapped voice here. This Dave guy is characterized very carefully all the way through the thing as fundamentally weak. It's the flaw that informs his character. Is this the real him, bandaged, prostrate before ideas so old they're B.C.? That shit with Jack Lord: that was just words. Could a weak person act so? Debate, before the bell rings, is vigorous and hot. The ambiguity is the rich, accidental kind — admitting equally of concession and stand.
Well and understandably Mark Nechtr wants to know, too. Does the archer who's guilty of his lover rat? Doesn't he, Mark Nechtr, have to know, if he's going to make it up? And how can he in good conscience just rip off, swallow, digest and expel as his what an alumnus with a streaked orange face and removable hair has clearly seen first herself? Would that be honorable, or weak? Don't make light of it. Don't laugh. Look at him, beseeching, soaked, scalded. He looks like a supplicant, one of us, the unspecial who burn without ever getting to ignite, as he lies, stabbed for real, finally, by this one gift that always returns, in Pest-Aside-milky mud, among gorged little corpses, before a scarecrow stripped of fatigues to reveal what it's been revealed as all along: two planks, opposed; a rotten orange head just stuck there, topped by a cap-usurping wig; and a power to strike contemporary fear into just those crows who've no stake or interest in a dead black lacuna between two fertile fields of greenly dripping feed.
And, in a related relation, Mark Nechtr won't rat. Will never tell of the realistic or sentimental compassion the poorly hidden and obvious Dr. Ambrose, warmed by fatigues whose sun-dried breast reveals only a suffix and number, arms strong as pine, fleshy of head, thin hair plastered across under the cap of some Chicago Cubs who this year just might do it—Nechtr never once will rat about the genuine feeling the cold genius used to cradle an infant's thick healthy neck, to bear an exhausted but replenished but still deprived detergent heir from an unenclosed place, toward the possibility of transport. Night crawlers boil confused at their feet, pests marching back into the fray like men with a mission, bearing tiny straws into furrows lactic with runoff from Pest-Aside, the Brand that Lures to One Side, as the academic man straddles a double, trampled path marked by impractical pumps, fruit-stained skirt, corporate jacket, fried petals, prosthetically engorged blouse. He is just nice, to carry both arrow and archer, and not even to mention about ratting.
Not that he's not irritating, of course. A born talker, he reminds my classmate of various obvious facts. That they have left the East Coast, have left the world's busiest airport, have left the world's least busy C.I.A. and its inevitable pay lot; that they've driven here and there and but are now not lost but only stalled, idled too high by a fearsome plastic nose, on the last road, one whose in-sight curve Westward leads straight to Collision. That the storm's worst has, once more, taken itself off East, where they've been. That they've left some awfully sore folks in a machine that's now dead-level in mud, but are returning via the path they've taken from them who sit bunched tight in a clown's car washed clean of plea or foreign brand, a homemade machine, attached even now by a
length of chain to the chestnut mare of a big old farmer, harvester down, who'd wanted to hitch a lift only to the curve's third shanty, since his eldest kid's got the rented car; who has a surplus slicker, a flat-faced brood, a way with physics and chains, and the bare animal charity to pull a malevolent car from the earth and set it back on the road. That here's the public representative of McDonald's, pastel hips jutting and legs bowed atop the foaming mare, which heaves and steams and gallops, muscles in bunches moving like whole corn-fed waves under a tight hide. That it all looks at once mythic and familiar, set against the new same sun's dripping green noon: J.D.'s perfect profile at the furry wheel, under hanging dice, cigar unlit, his window clean and down, while those of Stern-berg and D.L. are up, since they like to feel what they look through, four hands on two panes; and the laboring horse game, galloping without purchase in the glassy mud, the enormous farmer pushing at the mare's ass, except without any friction for his big boots, so he is, yes, OK, in a way, walking in place; the car, J.D. Steelritter's accelerator pushed flat, the big car's idle screaming, higher and higher, its big rear Goodyears' hubs popped and spokes awhirl as the soaked earth, by not holding on, will not let them go.
That, tired, but in time, they'll arrive at what's been built. That it's way too late to go back on anything. So to the Reunion of All Who've Appeared, to the Egress, to the Funhouse, Ambrose's erect Funhouse, designed to universal standards to be — past all the hype that will support it — just that. A house. That, though Dr. Ambrose would rather be among those for whom it's designed, he'll eat with sad cheer the fact that he, as builder, is not among: not a face in the crowd of those for whom it's really there: the richly deprived, the phobically unenclosed, the in-need-of-shelter. Children.
Just a tad too long? Lovesick! Mark'd! I have hidden exactly nothing. So trust me: we will arrive. Cross my heart. Stick a needle. To tell the truth, we might already be there. The gleaming tar reflects our state's lidless noon. We can see ourselves in what we walk on. Jack Lord's promotional LordAloft chopper can even now be seen, reflected, aloft, in and out of the last of the clouds, probing with a white finger for all who are astray, stalled, behind schedules.
The light of his image's sun illuminates our homemade machine's rear tire, spinning in place, as the mare gallops in place, as the big old man shoves in place, without purchase. But the wheel! Bound by nothing, the Goodyear spins and spins, has lost its ringing hub, has disclosed a radial's spokes. Hold rapt for that impossible delay, that best interruption: that moment in all radial time when something unseen inside the blur of spokes seems to sputter, catch, and spin against the spin, inside.
See this thing. See inside what spins without purchase. Close your eye. Absolutely no salesmen will call. Relax. Lie back. I want nothing from you. Lie back. Relax. Quality soil washes right out. Lie back. Open. Face directions. Look. Listen. Use ears I'd be proud to call our own. Listen to the silence behind the engines' noise. Jesus, Sweets, listen. Hear it? It's a love song.
You are loved.