By guest blogger: M.X. Perea
Would it surprise you to learn that I am a goat? That I am tied to a tree beside a garage? That the sun is shivering in the sky like a frail old man on an early autumn morning?
I am a goat, but that is my problem, not yours. And mine is a peach tree. It bears only small hard peaches, nearly all stone, though their surface is softish like the velveteen skin that covers vinyl dollar-store rabbits. I eat the peaches anyway.
It will die soon, the tree. I have seen this in my dreams. It will lean, split at its base, and half of it will fall away. Then the fruit rat that lives in its trunk will have to find a new cave. This destruction will take from five to fifteen years. What remains will be one old withered arm, blistered with a few yellow leaves and one or two sweet hard buds, like boils. I will eat these too when their time comes, and then I too will walk away.
Till then, the tree is my base. I have named it Home. My rope is tied loosely around it, so loose that were I to charge off toward the far sagging fence, the knot would surely unclasp, and I would be free. This is how you might choose to see it, but the truth is that the rope, sagging as it is, is longer than the distance from here to the fence. To charge toward the fence would leave me tangled in chain-link while still attached to Home. So why charge then?
Yes, why charge then? you might ask. Why not walk, as peacefully as a goat might walk, to the fence and jump, as gracefully as a goat might jump, up on the fence. From there a goat might stand tall and proud, soak in the sun, revel in its goatish odor. It is a sweet dream, sure. But what then?
If I were to leap into the adjoining yard, I might not hit earth before the rope were yanked tight, pulled to its limit. Then I’d be nothing more than a dangling goat, bucking and whining, until the life were choked from me, poor squealing thing. As far as I can tell, I’d never be discovered. For no one ever comes near--not ever. Even the moon would turn its ghost eye from me, down upon something that might cast a more resilient shadow.
So I stand, close to Home, waiting for the next peach to fall. And yet I get the sense that I should be doing something else. But what?
Don’t think that I haven’t tried conversing with the fruit rat. I have even tried to guess its name. In recent years, when it has poked its head from the crotch of Home, I have called it by those names. Dickle, I said, and days passed. Sinnerly, I said, and weeks passed. Remarkilization, I said, and months passed. It simply stared back at me, its yellow eyes seeming to say that a rat may not have a name, may even be undeserving of one. Undeserving I understood, for undeserving I stood. That was my little joke though I didn’t create it; it simply formed on my firm pointed tongue. I didn’t share the expression’s beauty with the small dark twitching thing before me.
The truth is, I have always been repulsed by rats. They make my skin crawl. And if something can make a goat’s skin crawl, you know it is a powerful thing.
I watched once--oh, this was years ago--when the rat (I have secretly named it Deliverant) emerged from Home and happened to turn toward the house. Yes, there’s a house. It turned toward the house--as I did in reveling in its freedom to move--and saw that the back door was open. It was cold then. I had spent the previous few evenings knitting myself a coat in the magic world of my head where anything I could imagine could actually exist if my eyes were kept closed for long enough. It was cold and Deliverant emerged shivering, even the crotch of Home failing to warm it. It spied the open door then turned to look at me. I wasn’t wholly innocent. I winked. I believe I saw Deliverant nod; then, it quickly bolted--as only a rat can do--toward the house. Can I describe the joy I felt when it scurried over the threshold? I don’t think so. Your loss.
There’s no telling how long Deliverant was in the house before it was discovered. I remember coming to, which must have meant that I had nodded off, and noticing that the door that had once been open--no other door but that--was now closed. Was it in? I believed so.
I dozed again, for you see, even the most exciting circumstances often fail to keep a goat awake. I opened my eyes again to screaming. To banging. To cursing. To the door of the house being flung open and Deliverant--that lucky bastard--flying from the open door and leaping from the stoop. A full broom--handle to hay--flew after it. In a blink of my lazy eyes, Deliverant had found its way home.
I expected it to be chased. Instead the door was banged shut.
I swept my head from side to side for that is the only way I know to sweep my gaze from side to side, and that was my intention. I believe I wanted evidence--of what I know not. Of what I had witnessed, perhaps. But there was none. Instead, the air was still, the world was quiet. No testimonial emerged to find its way to my ears, my eyes, my etc.
Nor did Deliverant appear though I had so many questions, not for months. I focused my attention on the crotch, the dark hole from which it was wont to emerge. I neighed, and my neigh seemed to echo, to bounce off the bleaching wall of the garage, to rise above me and shake the power lines strung loose and lazily in the air above me. I heard the power lines buzz. I didn’t know what to make of it.
A bit about Perea: Professor of English at Pasadena City College
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