WALTER B. NEEDS SOME TIME
When Walter B., one evening, explained to Beatrice that he "needed time," Beatrice pulled the last bite of fish from Walter B.'s mouth and shook it at him. She wished he had said instead that he needed a timbrel, and off they would have gone together to the spectacle where the timbrelist often played. But Walter B. did not need a timbrel. Walter B. "needed time." So Beatrice wrapped what was left of the fish in a red wool cloth and set out to find him some. It was cold outside. If I was time, wondered Beatrice, where would I be? She watched the humans in the distance breathe into the grass. If I was time, wondered Beatrice, how would I remind myself of where I was? She held the last bite of fish up to her mouth for warmth. It began to feel heavy in her hands. She wished he had said instead that he needed a timbrel. She wished she was for Walter B. the time he needed. But she was not. She unwrapped the last bite of fish and studied it. It reminded her of a world inside of which Walter B. was mostly gone. She rubbed her arms with it. She buried her face in it. It began to grow around her like a soft, white house. It grew, and it grew, until at last Beatrice was inside. She slowly walked through its rooms. In the first room, a pile of shovels. In the second, a pitcher of milk. When she stepped inside the third, Walter B. and the timbrelist were helping each other on with their coats. "If you were time," called out Walter B., "where would you be?" Before Beatrice could answer, Walter B. saluted her, took the timbrelist by the hand, and left her alone in the soft, white house. Beatrice sat on the floor. Much later she would drink from the pitcher of milk. She would lean against the pile of shovels. But for now all Beatrice could do was sit on the floor. She would sit on the floor of the soft, white house until she grew hungry again for Walter B.'s last bite of fish.
A mistake had been made. "Should we shoot it?" asked Walter B. "Of course," sighed Beatrice, "we should not shoot it." It stood in the long grass and blinked at them. "Where do you think," asked Beatrice, "it came from." "From the debacle, I suppose," is all Walter B. said. And then he considered, "or maybe from the babies." Beatrice tugged at her sleeves. A mistake had been made, and now Walter B. and Beatrice had on their hands a situation. "How," asked Walter B., "do you suppose such a mistake had been made?" The mistake began to pose, as if it heard him. It staggered across the field. For a moment it looked like a woman bent over nothing in particular. And then it rose. And then it opened its mouth. "Oh, look," exclaimed Beatrice, "it's communicating!" "Is it alone?" whispered Walter B., taking Beatrice's hand. "Yes," Beatrice whispered back, "I think it is alone." But it was not alone. It was not alone at all. Others began to emerge. Some from the trees. Some from the grass. Their damp white mouths flashed in the sunlight. "Had I known a little ahead of time," said Walter B., "I would have changed into my suit." "Yes," agreed Beatrice, "we should have arrived more prepared." "This is exactly what," said Walter B. raising his voice, and pointing at the scene in front them, "I had been trying to explain to you. And now we are in a situation without any rope." "Pardon me," said Beatrice. And she began to walk into the field. Slowly, at first. And then faster. And then she began to run. She ran with her arms outstretched, as one might run into a field filled with mothers.
BEATRICE TAKES A LOVER
"I am taking a lover," Beatrice announced, flipping through the phone book procreatively. "And where exactly," asked Walter B. fussing with his fur collar, "will you be taking this lover?" "To the debacle, Walter B." Walter B. was miffed. "You are being, Beatrice, neither relevant nor sensible." Beatrice felt warned. She felt like she should cook for Walter B. some soup tonight in fairly graphic detail. "Why," asked Walter B., brushing the fur off his neck, "to the debacle?" Beatrice thought for a moment. She considered the beauty of Walter B.'s ruin. "Because I want," said Beatrice, "some astonishment." "What in god's name," asked Walter B., "is wanting some astonishment?" Beatrice began to worry she had read the wrong book. She went into the yard, which she often did when she felt unsure. Walter B. followed. "Astonishment, Walter B.," continued Beatrice staring at the ground, "is when you take a lover to the debacle." "I see," said Walter B. He began to reconsider his position. He knew somewhere deep in Beatrice's heart that this was not terrific. He knew that this was very, very far from terrific. He wanted very much to unbutton her blouse. He wanted to touch her thighs in a way neither Beatrice nor Walter B. would later remember. "And furthermore, Walter B.," Beatrice continued, "I have been feeling, lately, like a scene of simplicity." "But why not take a lover," asked Walter B., "to a field or to a bridge or to mother's. Why," he moaned, "to the debacle?" "Because of god," said Beatrice. Walter B. could hardly believe his ears. He could hardly believe this wonderful turn of events. Beatrice would take a lover to the debacle because of god! "You have made me, sweet Beatrice, very, very happy. Happier, in fact, than I have ever been in my entire life. So happy, in fact, that I would like to twirl." "So twirl," said Beatrice, feeling, at last, very pleased with herself. And so Walter B. twirled. He twirled, and he twirled, and he twirled. He twirled until there was no twirling left in the whole wide world.