in the tunnels

i. Here we are, digging. This is a soil-shifting project. We are digging here. Oh, sometimes we just sit in one of the dark and moist chambers, maybe light a candle and start a conversation. “Mother’s sandwiches were excellent; she was the tomato queen.” We start talking about death. K says that he is not afraid of dying – or hardly as afraid as he was the first time. And Neftali, too, has changed his mind. He only wants chocolate now. He won’t touch the croissants unless they are chocolate-filled.

ii. Tom has started visiting the surface to look at the stars. Hélène says it is too late, that this new sentimental phase he is going through won’t restore his hope. He giggles. Hélène is the one who spends her nights here even when she doesn’t have to. What about the stars? Tell me about the stars, I beg Tom. He shakes his head. I know he is sick of words. But I am starving.

iii. Nancy is the new one here. She asks about God. Tom says he still believes. K starts digging again. I am quiet. I have been sworn to silence on this subject.

iv. K says he is no longer a pacifist. Neftali asks why. Because we have to dig either way, he says. I think I know what he means. It is more beautiful to love everyone than it is not to hurt anyone. Both are impossible, of course.

v. The big clock in the pantry chimed twenty-seven times, so Neftali finished the chocolate.

vi. K found a bathrobe in a wicker chest in one of the nether chambers. When he came back wearing it, he stroked my nose with the sleeve. It is too big for him. I imagine it is light blue.

vii. Sam has purchased a complete leatherbound set of the Bard’s works. It is too bad we never hear from the Bard anymore. The last time I heard him he said he was a single daffodil in a green vase. Of course, he may still be here. He could be any one of us. I have been stroking the bindings. Maybe K will let me wear his bathrobe.

viii. Hélène has accused Neftali of hoarding the chocolate. He says that she’s a puritan wearing a feminist body-suit. This is ridiculous, but it’s true that he’s not hoarding the chocolate. It’s just that he eats it all; he doesn’t care how fat it makes him. He shares it freely, but only as long as it lasts. Hélène will start talking about Y again soon, because she knows it makes Tom mad and Neftali quiet. K keeps weighing himself in his bathrobe. I think it may be pink today.

ix. Hélène can’t stop reading the magazines by candlelight, though they make her scream. She tears them to shreds and swears. K takes the scraps for his collages, which no one has seen. They smell like perfume and paste.

x. Hélène says the Sermon on the Mount was meant to be ironic. Tom says it was meant to be dreamed. K, of course, refuses to comment. I think he just puts his hands over his eyes. There is a little candlelight coming from the tunnel. Maybe the League has finished its manuscript.

xi. Sam started reading the works of TB, but he is now spending his time watching K with the night-goggles. K has taken up juggling loose tea cannisters. He means it to signify something. Sam loves it.

xii. Neftali’s girth caused the collapse of one of the tunnels earlier. When Hèléne makes a comment about it, he’ll turn to Sam and say, “She’s drowning in her blood river.” He is post-menopausal, we think.

xiii. Tom has gone for one of his night romps on the surface. I am baking shortbread over coals. I haven’t heard Neftali or Hèléne since their spat. Sam stands next to me holding the tea cannisters, measuring the tea, I think. Or perhaps he is constructing a fort with them. He must think I am K. I am wearing K’s robe. Tonight it must be golden.

xiv. Nancy has started dancing by herself. K hears the soft scuffling and comes to sit and work near her. He doesn’t dig, so she won’t trip. He doesn’t juggle, so she doesn’t get hit. He is not yet an accomplished juggler. I think he whittles figurines out of hard roots. And he whistles music to match the rhythm of her scuffling. There is a dark moon glowing in the chamber.

xv. Sam is talking to K about the League. He says it is writing a sequel to the manuscript. But no one has read the manuscript. Perhaps it is only the second draft.

xvi. Nancy tells K she still believes in God. He is silent. I offer her a piece of shortbread. The League is still working on the problem of God.

xvii. Perhaps Nancy is the Bard. He was always dancing about God.

xviii. Neftali goes around comparing animals to geological features and geological features to food and food to women and Hèléne to red coals set deep in the eye-sockets of a lava-chiseled idol. Nancy purses her lips, or so it seems to me. But that one swears me to silence again.

xix. Sam is fascinated by THE LEAGUE. He keeps wandering down the tunnel that leads to the BUREAU, trying to listen in on its discussions. But the door to the BUREAU is very thick and heavy. Still, I can hear the debates if I try. But I will not tell Sam this. I don’t like to try. THE LEAGUE never agrees with itself, except about the secrecy policy.

xx. K is wearing the ear-muffs and gloves he asked me to knit for him, though it’s hot and stuffy here more often than cold. I gather that Neftali is naked most of the time. He says that the darkness and the heat defeat the purpose of clothing. I can only imagine.

xxi. Hélène says that the newspapers are printing lies about her again. I assume she means her horoscope is inaccurate. Nancy is trying to befriend Hélène. She consoles her, but I do not listen to their conversation. I am trying to be less intrusive. But I think they could be good friends. Hélène is not nearly as prickly as she would like others to believe. She is scared of Tom.

xxii. K is developing film in one of the nether chambers. Neftali is threatening to drink the chemicals if K doesn’t stop photographing him. He is more body conscious than he pretends. But K mostly photographs Nancy.

xxiii. Nancy’s flute has disappeared. I am sad, because it was stolen.

xxiv. We hear the flute playing, but the culprit has not confessed. Oceans of grief in me. Death is so bitter. But hate? I do not understand it.

xxv. Nancy no longer cries. She sits quietly beside K until the desire to dance splits her open. Then the knot unfolds and all the sadness becomes swaying vegetation.

xxvi. Nancy’s voice has taken on a flutish quality when she speaks. Sometimes I forget to listen to the words, and find myself just listening to the music.

xxvii. Tom has set off to visit Florence. He took with him a back-pack full of figs and hard cheese. I suppose he will find olives and wine along the way. Hélène drinks small cups of bitter coffee.

xxviii. Nancy is gone. I am glad for her. For her it was simple.

xxix. K has taken Nancy’s departure stoically. He never intended to be happy.

xxx. I have started drinking espresso. Hélène is a bad influence on me, in some ways. That is silly. A bad influence? I start laughing. I have not laughed since Nancy’s flute was stolen. But that doesn’t matter anymore. And of course it was necessary.

xxxi. Hélène has asked Neftali to start wearing the bathrobe. He has agreed, because his skin is gettting chaffed. Now the robe will be yellow with red flowers.

xxxii. Tom is back from Florence. He brought another statue back with him. We have placed it just outside the door to THE BUREAU. THE LEAGUE will know what to do with it. Or at least it will keep them occupied until K is finished digging the chamber for the library. Neftali has stacked all the driftwood he can find along the shore in a pile right in front of my bed, so I have to crawl over it to sleep. It’s my nightly prayer. He is so maliciously careless. It’s entertaining.

xxxiii. There are new voices coming from the library.

xxxiv. Mr. Bigglesworth has moved into the safe behind the Chagall in the library.


Creative Commons License
Midsummer Pole Dancing (Photo) by Joel Short is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.

Creative Commons License
In the Tunnels by Joel Short is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.


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