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Invisible Lines (Novella)

Quigleyís Harvest
by Cervo © 2006



"Quigley!" came the voice up from the basement in that sharp sour tone that made his nerves ache.

"QUIGLEY!í it snapped from the box of Frieblowís Pickle Brining Jars that had been down there for at least 33 years.

"I want a cucumber!" it rattled. "I want a cucumber now! Right now, you miserable weasel."

"I told you not to call me a weasel," he snarled mostly to himself. There was no reply. The sound of dripping came from the damp basement.

He looked at the calendar on the refrigerator that stood next to the partly open door to the cellar stairs. It was May again. He spooned up a wad of ketchup and flipped it through the crack into the darkness where it would splatter in the dingy basement.

"Fuck offÖMother." He growled and threw a jar of vinegar at the door. It landed unharmed on the linoleum. The door slammed shut. He could still hear the voice commanding him to surrender a cucumber at once.

"That thingís not Mother. I gotta remember thatís not my Mother. I ainít seen her since she died. ThatísÖthatís something else down there. Itís not Momma. I know itís not, but I canít help thinking Öthinking it might be."

As if on cue it squealed, "Quigleeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee! I wannacucumberNOW!!!!"

Quigley got up from the kitchen table where he had a dozen cucumbers in a dirty paper bag from the produce stand on the highway. They smelled of the sun. He washed them carefully and set them on the drain board. He could never decide what to feed it, or if he should feed it at all. He opened the door.

"Shut the fuck up, down there. Man canít hear himself think!"

"Think? Hah! Fat chance of you doing that, Quigley. Thick as a plank and soft as a raw egg, thatís you, my boy. Soft as a sneaker full of shit! Now whereís my cucumber!"

Quigley did not answer. He slammed the door. That bang was followed by series of other bangs from elsewhere. He realized it was the front door. He thought to cram his cucumbers in the fridge, but then shook his head. There was no guilty secret in having cucumbers. It was that thing that made him feel guilty for having a cucumber and not handing it over.

He shambled to the front door and opened it.

"Iím pregnant," said Sebilla, his fiancť.

"Great," he muttered, "weíll celebrate with some fresh produce I just bought."

"But we havenítÖevenÖdone it yet!" she squeaked. For a very tall woman with very large breasts, she had a very high squeaky voice.

"Perhaps you did it with someone else?" he asked.

"But I didnít. How do you explain this, Quigley Kasengasser? If I am going to be Mrs. Kasengasser, I have to know how I got pregnant!"

"Come in the kitchen. Sit down. I think I can explain." But he did not. He was just buying time, and they both knew it.

They trooped through the house to the dank little kitchen and sat down in silence.

Sebilla was suddenly seized with a powerful desire for cucumbers.

She stood by the kitchen door and tears started down her pale cheeks.

Quigley was in agony at her suffering and so he took her in his arms and gently held her to him. He could feel the warm fit of her body against his, and the sigh the released the tension in her body as she drew comfort from the hug.

"Have you washed these?" she said. "Jesus, I have been eating these all day. What the hell is it with cucumbers? Why the hell canít I put them down? Do something, Quigley. Do something normal!"

"Yes," said Quigley.

Without another word, he watched her snap down her teeth on the green skin. She started gnawing on one of the plump, firm green tubular veggies. She could hardly speak she was so aroused by the flavor as the juice ran down her chin.

"Pretty good, hunh?" he said. Her eyes filled with fear as she chewed fiercely. It was as though two beings were within her.

"Do you think you could eat me, Quig, I mean while I have some of this wonderful cucumber?"

He sat her down in the streaming sunlight and spread her legs.

"Wait," she said as she stood and then reached up her skirt to pull down her panties. They puddled at her feet. She sat again, sighed, and bit off a huge chunk of cuke. He commenced to lick her.

"Mmmmhmmm is this all you got? Just these?" Sebilla belched and a cucumber seed appeared at the corner of her mouth.

"Is it me?" he thought. "Do I attract these Öthis sort of woman?"

"They really are delicious," she said and a damp lunacy began to work itself into her eyes. "I want some more cucumbers if you got Ďem," she demanded.

Her skin had a greenish cast. How many of these springy tubes could she have eaten today? Her belly was slightly distended. She had only been pregnant for whatÖa few days at most? How could she be showing so early? Besides she hadnít been fucked. At least not by him.

"Can I use your bathroom? All these fresh veggies go right through you."

"Yes, please do,í he replied following the broad view of her swaying ass with his eyes as she left the room.

"Gotcher hot babe up there, do you, Quigley?" said the voice from the basement. "Well before you get down to sliding into home, Sonny, I want some nuts."

"I thought you wantedó"

"Cucumbers! Yeah I wanted Ďem, but now I want nuts. She ate the fat green ones. So now I want big fat nuts. Now!"

Quigley went to the cabinet. He took down a bag of walnuts and dumped them into a steel mixing bowl. Then he clomped down to the basement.

"Goddamn dark down here, Quigley. You bring the nutcracker or do I have to do that myself? I can crack nuts you know, and I bet you know that!"

"I know itís dark. I think its best that way."

He lifted the lid on the box and there was that odd shaped thing in there smacking its coarsely furry lips.

"You got my nuts?" it said. A wet, earthy odor arose from the box like something once delicate that needed to be washed several times thoroughly.

"Yes," he replied and dumped in the nuts. Rapid, fierce crunching ensued immediately. A satisfied sigh was followed by a furious shower of nuts shells that spewed up and out over the sides of the box.

Then a pause followed by the voice in a thick, gummy form. "These nuts are as old and soft as my grandaddyís back-end. You know that, Quigley? They are going really stinky and soft. What am I gonna do with soft nuts? Better do better on Sunday. Thatís all I can say. Donít forget we are going out on Sunday. Thatís my special day. So donít forget or Iíll be hurt. You donít want to hurt me do you?"

Quigley looked down into the box where it pulsed up at him. He realized that he had been living with it now since last June Ö. for eleven long painfully weird months. He had gone from reading medical journals to ones on physics but no one reported a "cunt-in-the-box" phenomenon. He was not at all sure he did not want to hurt it. In fact he would have killed it and burned it if he could figure out how to do it humanely if even successfully. He did not want it to come back in its moldering box again this time.

"No, of course not. Donít be paranoid. No," he said and closed the box as the crunching and wet chewing started again. He trudged upstairs as more nut shells spewed over the floor.

"Cucumbers keep you regular," said Sebilla with a look of triumph as he came through the door.

"I am relieved," he said.

"Not as relieved as I am, Qigster." She giggled at her own daring ribaldry.

Quigley wondered again just how crazy things were going to get. She stood and leaned over the table to look out the window thus presenting her rump in an inviting way.

She smiled back at him over her shoulder. Her brightly flowered sun dress made her skin glow in the light and he wondered where the Sebilla who had been that person had gone. Perhaps she too was down in the basement somewhere.

"Whatcha got downstairs? Pickles? Can I see?"

"No. not now, Sebilla. We have to make our wedding plans it seems. Those stairs are dark, you know. Dangerous. And the light doesnít work." But she did not listen.

She stood at the head of the wooden steps groping in the darkness. Quigley nearly caught up with her and had a hand on her arm squeezing it tightly when she fell. Her landing made a heavy sound on impact with the hard packed dirt and stone floor. It was an old house with a deep basement. He went down the stairs.

The gas meter clicked away in the corner. Next to it however, loomed the great coal furnace that even as a boy he had stoked night after night in the bleak winters of outer Staten Island. Coal was cheap and the fuel really warmed the place up to a frothy sweat even in the howling winds of January. But it had to be stoked each day, went out at night, belched smoke, and made nasty fumes. He could try to kill it and throw it in there, but the smoke? The smoke would be noticed by the neighbors. Besides, he did not like the idea of it in the flames beating on the this glass door of the firebox and screeching in agony.

"Dead as a gherkin," said the voice from the box. "That bitch is toes up for sure. Youíll hang for that Quigley."

"They donít hang people anymore, Mother, or whatever you are. And she is not dead. Sheís pregnant." But he wondered if she was dead. Should he check? If she were dead, there was nothing to do about it except maybe the furnace. If not, she would come around. For now he had to think about the thing in the box.

"Well then, youíll hang yourself from remorse, right here where I can watch."

Quigley thought about that and saw that if he left things as they were, he very likely would hang himself. He noted that the last delivery of coal was still there untouched from the day the gas unit was installed.

The shovel was nearby. Could he cremate all the women in his life even if one of them were not dead?

"Got any zucchini?" said the thing in the box. "Iím hungry."

"Zucchini? In May? Iíll get you something nice for Sunday. We canít go out, but I can get you a really nice bushel of your favorites for your Sunday cucumbers like those fat Japanese ones you like."

"Youíd better." said the voice. Sebilla made a strange strangled noise in the dark.

"No little Quigleyís from her then, eh?" it said. "I bet you screwed up her works!"

Quigley got up with a candle in his hand and walked to the box. He looked down into it with one eye closed to see what it was in there through the gloom. A furry scuttling scrabbled against the side of the box to get out of the light.

"If youíre a good boy, I set you free on Sunday, Quigley. Iíll be gone out of your life and mine." But it sounded like a bribe to get rid of the light. It had done that before.

When sundown was again approaching on Sunday, Quigley brought a fresh bushel of cucumbers in from his Buick. It was actually his friendís Buick which he borrowed so that he could be more anonymous while buying hundreds of pounds of cucumbers."

He lit the candles and sat down next to the box. Then he began easing cucumber after cucumber in an endless chair into the box where they were crunched down instantly. Sebilla was still there unconscious like a sleeping princess except for the cobwebs on her face.

"Thatís better, you just keep doing that, and we will be oooookay, Ouig." The wet chewing went on.

"Did you know, Mother, that in five billion years, the sun will explode? We will be long gone by then, you know? Mind you donít choke now. Thereís a dear."

"Yeah, so? Did you get the zucchini?"

"Things arenít what they seem, Mama. They donít stay the same. Take you living in this box."

"Iím not going to live in this cardboard dump forever. I am gonna move to a shipping container and really live high on the hog someday soon." There was no talking to it when it was in this mood. Drunk on a cucumber binge, the thing would rave on about its bright future without ever mentioning that it was chained to Quigley forever, and he to it.

He tossed in another batch of cukes and headed over to where Sebilla sat numbly on the stairs. He tried to stir

her, but he could not even with a kiss. The thing had her in its thrall.

"That business about the sun, Quigley?"

"Yeah?"

"You got that wrong. Everything will more or less reintegrate, doncha know.

Universe canít go backwards. It ainít linear. But it sure can slip to the side so to speak. I oughta knowÖ" at which point it gave a thoughtful cackle.

Something in Quigleyís mind registered the voice now. It was new. It was no longer his motherís now. it was Walter Brennan playing some country geezer. Either his mother had disguised it, or it was transforming. It might be doing that intentionally. Did cucumbers do that? Transform things? Well why the hell not?

He stepped over to the box and this time very gently set a two foot length of rebar down on the side of the table next to the box. Things had to change. He had done this time and time before. He would set down the coarse rusty steel rod and then forget it was there. Why did he bring it to the table? Why did he forget? Everything seemed to be regressing back intoÖinto the thing in the box, becoming some function of it. However, it might be right that all this was a sort of dimensional slip.

Day after day he had grown used to his routine as slave to the thing in the box. Up and down the stairs he went hauling bushels of cucumbers and shipping cases of nuts. Again and again he thought he could feed it no more but it would pause, hum for a few minutes and then quietly ask for more. At last all he could say was, "Yes, my love."

He went upstairs and came back down with another bushel of cucumbers. The baskets were relentlessly filling the space now from the recent days of gorging. He felt like the Sorcererís Sous-chef. He took the largest of the cucumbers from its basket and felt the nubby smoothness

of its firm, springy sides. Then lifting the flap of the box, he eased the veg towards itís outer lips. These parted with a whiskery snuffle as though automatically responding to the scent. The inner lips seemed to welcome the pressure that came after that from the tip of the cucumber. He slipped it gently up and down the the thingís central slit until it seemed to sigh with pleasure and relax. Then he nuzzled and nudged it into the opening at the base.

At first it seemed to resist, but then it opened welcoming the new intruder with its snug embrace. Quigley could smell his own sweat now and could feel days and days of oily growth on his face. The scent of the earth rose around him. Then he smiled and carefully began to ease the cucumber in and out in a steady gathering rhythm.

This seemed to go on and on for a long blissful period until in the voice of Heidi Klum, it snarled, "Come on, donít tease. I want it all. Give me the whole thing, baby."

He released the giant cuke, and it instantly disappeared as the thing moaned and keened in a blissful way. It made him remember something warm and soft like sunshine, but it would not come clear in his thoughts. Soon a tear ran hotly out of his eye.

"Do you think we should leave it," asked Sebilla who had suddenly revived. She stood next to him staring down into the box at the ceremony that had just been enacted for the umpteenth time.

"Um no actually, I canít. I mean I have tried. It comes back."

"It does?"

Itís voiceóonce again his motherísósnapped from the box, "I donít come back, you idiots. I am here when you get this farÖ to this point in time. I am always at your coordinates. Triangulate damnit! Donít just count! You are so fucking dense. Iím hungry."

Eventually, Quigley brought down seventeen more bushels of cucumbers and one hundred and forty three bags of mixed nuts; enough to last another night. Soon he would run out of money and then he was not sure what would consist of Ďthení when they got there. He strung a light over the table on a zip cord and the impromptu newlyweds sat there for the next section of eternity, easing cucumbers and nuts into the cunt in the box.

It never became clear if it was his motherís cunt, though it had at one point identified itself as that, and why would a cunt lie about that? But was it a cunt? And was it telling the truth? Do cunts lie? He tried asking it questions about their former life such as family vacations and hobbies it had had when it was more than a cunt. Whatever it was could be tricky and evasive. He could not be sure but it seemed to be his motherís cunt. Perhaps, Quigley often thought, it isnít a cunt at all but some sort of opening, a point of displacement like the volcanic areas of the earth that release unbearable tensions from the magma within.

They sat under the swinging light over the table and Sebilla learned to order form Fresh Direct on her wireless phone. They which brought the makings for cheese sandwiches since no oneóno personócould eat cucumbers and nuts forever.

One night as the sun was setting, Sebilla looked up tearfully at Quigley and said, "You know, I saw this play 13 year ago this Wednesday in Boston, or maybe it was in Connecticut, but I know it wasnít Detroit. And you know what? At the end this girl and her uncle are sitting at a table just like this at dusk and they realize they are never going to ever go anywhere else until they die. Quigley, you arenít my uncle are you? I couldnít bear that."

"No, as far as I know I am not, Sebilla, but clearly things are changing in some new and different way so who knows? But we will operate on the assumption that I am not your uncle because I love you."

"Good. Thank you," she said. The gas meter clicked away in the darkness of the corner. For a brief moment, Quigley thought about using the gas. Then he reached for yet another bushel basket and began feeding the it where it nested in the box as the light faded from the horizon.

_______
© 2006 Cervo.† All rights reserved. Content may not be copied or used in whole or part without written permission from the author.

Bio:†Cervo lives in an aged brownstone in a curiously eclectic part Brooklyn with his dogs, an otterhound and a puli as well as his cat, his friends and his tenants. He gardens whenever he has a spare moment in his backyard. Around him live the chic of New York in the hottest neighborhood in the City which is also inhabited by gangs, derelicts, real estate developers, whores, and sundry creatures surviving in a nearby pestilential canal. Inspiration to him is like flirting. It often starts as a disturbing brush with the sensual.


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