For Every Mile The Feet Go


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Scene Title For Every Mile The Feet Go
Synopsis Doll's boy's asleep under a stile. This is what he sees.
Date November 7, 2009

Brooklyn Mortuary School — Morgue

He couldn't explain if he did it in Italian, prepared a draft, and actually wanted to. It is the sum, curve, and algebraic processes of a lot of little things.

Chronological order, then. Some adolescent rascals had egged the little Episcopalian church down the street from the safehouse he slept out last night and he popped white shells under his sneakers when he went for his run in the morning. The AR-15 he was going to give Delilah for practice jammed and nearly took his hands off blowing itself apart in the frame when he tested it this afternoon, something to do with… corrosive undermaintenance, maybe, or manufacturer's flaw— the worst aggravation about stolen parts was the fact you couldn't exactly file a fuckin complaint.

The church was a pity, gun a mortifying misfortune and piece of shit. The fungal infestation that ate through half the winter carpets they were going to unfurl at the Garden, a crying shame. His nose still hurts where he blocked Ethan's fist with it.

It is, at best, a very weak concatenation of circumstances that has landed him in this shit predicament: of lying in a morgue with a syringe of Refrain hanging from his flaccid fingers. Across from him, the cold chamber doors line the wall in three rows of six, like ovens in inverse or birth in reverse, toe-tags only a few sealed steel inches from egress. A few sealed steel inches from him. He wonders, if he listened hard enough, with his ears and his ability, if he could hear what they whisper to each other. And then his eyes roll shut.

Revenge stories of childhood are different from their grown-up peers precisely because what makes adult human motivations uniquely grotesque, unforgivable, and appealing is absent, for the same reasons that even unfamiliar children can not be considered strangers. In the very young, what anger they manifest must have merely been intensified and returned.

When Teo is thirteen years old, he makes an enemy out of Fat Este's guard dog when he and the other boys try to break into the boathouse, ignoring the sign and plain iconograph. The bitch gets him on the leg, opens him up calf to heel, and his aunt Lucrezia spends a few millions of lira on surgically assuring he won't scar anything hideous. It's the talk of the whole school because the boys are supposed to be good with dogs. Threat of lawsuit is brief. Este Testa is generally regarded as an enemy of the Laudanis, Bennatis, all the families which contribute professors, janitorial staff, or students at the same school, father's boss, and the rest of the neighborhood community which has generally found Este's ugly fence, accumulation of backyard garbage, and unassisted deafness degrading. Teodoro doesn't forget. And Teodoro is good with dogs.

One night when the bitch is in heat, he locks a few strays in with her while he breaks into the boathouse alone. While he works, he can hear the animals tearing each other up through the walls, liquid snarls and running. He hadn't honestly expected her to fight back but he doesn't stop until he's finished and leaves. Bite-marks big enough to cover Teo's whole hand, blood squirt and puckered fur roostertailed ropy cursive havoc in the buckets, confetti wrappers, and matted newspapers of Este's junk.

Accounts vary in the following days. Some say the bitch was raped to death, others overheard three discrete and distinct gunshots.

The last time Teo sees the old man is from the pier. Much to Este's panic, his rowboat is sinking, sea spurting in onto his pants, and his oars grumble and throb in their rowlocks, frantically slashing foam through water as he fights to reach shore in time. The holes are hidden in a board seam, on the level of his seats, so the vessel only takes on water when Fat Este's mass or greater rests in it. Fortunate, he hadn't brought any baggage aboard except emotional.

Este doesn't drown, or anything. It's fucking hilarious when he finally stands up ashore: he looks like he wet his pants. Teo's wave and crowing salutation stings Este's face hysterically red and he hollers he's going to go get his fucking gun and end him before he gets any bigger or mean-spirited, which Teo finds refreshingly honest and perversely exciting, but Este doesn't come out after closing the door. Never comes out again at all, or not before Teodoro deigns to stop giving a damn and the Laudanis move closer to the college sponsoring Rommy's gifted students program.

Ghost dangles his ankles off the gurney. "So you have it," he says. "You have always been characterized by high, elaborate disdain, whether for yourself or anybody else. It's inevitable. Like the little twirl of bubbles before the whirlpool. Or a good story circling in to eat its own tail."

It is him. Teo can tell because — he looks subtly older, jawline and cheekbones cut and fused to austerity by impact, weather, and age, lent the distinction of time. Raven tattooed on the left of his neck, wings flared, drop-shadow under its belly and an analog clock reading the fifth hour wrung in its scaly feet. He's a little broader, too.

Despite having been paranoid and proportionally prepared for this eventuality, the worst case scenario that could possibly result of chemically tinkering with the constituent memories of a mass-murdering bodysnatching psychic entity, Teo is stunned. "Fuck." His fingers razor at the air in scissoring spasms that meet at the knuckles. He straightens, or tries to, snags the back of his bristly hair on the wall and ratchets his shoulders up plaster in a vain effort to get up. Skids down again. "Don't do anything," he warns. "Don't fucking try anything; don't even think about it. You can't get out of this room anyway: it's programmed to a timer. The lock won't open until six-thirty AM."

"It will if I shoot it enough times," Ghost points out, philosophically. "It's not like you go anywhere unarmed, do you?"

Teo frowns, and glances up at the control panel beside the door. Steadily, it blinks green at him.

"Or like I'd just shred like mist in three hours if you raised enough of me to really fuck with you now. This is the worst plan ever." Ghost picks up the spraybottle of green cleaning fluid from the rack in the medical cart beside him, spritzes in his general direction. "Or maybe that was letting the clandestine operation that invented psychic rape play slum lords with your cerebellum. Or shooting your therapist and subtracting the Columbia 14 by none. On the upside, that doesn't sound like anything either Baby Spice or I would have ever done. So.

"You've independently established your own line of reckless sociopathic moron credit. Congratulations. I see you have already begun to invest it in fast-multiplying bonds o—"

Teo suggests, "Fffuck off." He decides to stop struggling off the floor or trying to decide who is occupying their actual body or where it is with respect to the room, which one of them is the hallucination or the possibility he is or will become the hallucination of a hallucination, some nightmarish, Freudian Matryoshka of consciousness. Grumpily, he studies his shoes. "You try coming into being only partially as a consequence of having been born. Putting myself together would be a lot more fun if it didn't feel like trying to breed a washing machine with a monster truck for working parts."

"You should stop cutting your hair so short. Enjoy it while you have it," the ghost answers, his brows mobile with quizzical good humor. He discards the detergent and begins to turn out his pockets with an attitude of intellectual inquiry, laying out wallet, cellphone, three separate quarters. "You start thinning when you turn thirty-four. What the Hell happened to your nose?"

For this, Teo feels a twinge of guilt. Not the nose, exactly. Despite that many of the changes he's wrought on his predecessors' lives have been numerous and indiscriminate in his energetic efforts to buck the train off its tracks to collision course, there has been only one visible, irrecoverable loss, which is probably only true because all of Teodoro Laudani's friends are pathologically forgiving people except for the one. "Holden's the best fighter I know, now. I can run and shadowbox but it isn't the same. And I'm sorry. I kept seeing your kid's face superimposed over Pratt's, when we went to kill her. And now I don't even remember where to find—"

In 2014, effectively deranged by grief, he crowds into Hana and stutters ugly nonsense in Hebrew and finally works up the nerve to kiss her. She takes him to bed, by which the reader may take to mean, that is not the furniture upon which they start or middle but it isn't Teo taking Hana to bed.

Hana rolls them over wrinkled tarp, a sleeping bag, sideswipes his derelict beer bottle with her elbow, bounces aside the plywood roof of the RPG crate and the musty chaff that had buffered the explosives and tangles his toes in the fiberoptic wires to her console rig before they finally kick to a halt right back against the leg of the unfolded cot again. He scratched himself on something, speckled his elbow with tasseled loose skin and dotted blood, but he found himself disoriented by the smell of unperfumed hygiene netted around his nose by the dark of her hair and when she kisses him it zithers a dreamy shriek of adrenaline and endorphins through his ears. He puts his arms around her and after her shoulder presses the closure of his eye, it comes away dry.

Afterward, they are actually scrunched together, compacted in the bed and there's a blotch of light up there smudging into dawn, a solid fingerprint moon. She falls asleep after giving him a long look in the dark, like she is considering whether or not she needs to say it again and she doesn't, shuts fringy eyelids, punctuates sleep with a sigh, and is suddenly unavailable for response. Teo passes trigger-finger down her cheek and is reminded anyway, of course— right. Never again. He wonders when it was that her sense of family had gotten so small, deep, and dark that nothing, not even potential received light; if it was the afternoon Samantha Tanner killed Helena and the others, when she realized not even all of the enraged strength and cunning she'd forged out of adulthood, the Company, cultivated vendetta could trump the tragedy of terrible timing, that she is as powerless now to save those she loves as she was orphaned, alone and atrophied, at nine years old.

Or maybe it was when he showed up again. Black hood jacked up crooked around his barbarically shagged head and tall and Baltically pale like some specter of death, but invited, and as powerless now as he was three years earlier in their friendship to hold back the dark with either his greatness or his foolishness. Synagogue traffic clops outside. He falls—

—asleep. Coming awake, however, he realizes with a choking start that Teo has grabbed him. Baby Spice— younger Teo, that is— and this revelation strikes him with such a physical clap of force that he almost falls back down again. Nausea rolls ringing slot machine notions through his inner-ear. "What," he says. Ghost's still here, but closer, waving a miniature Maglite in his face. Partially blinded, he spits, frees himself with a pinwheeling of red-blotched knuckles and anemically spotted palms. "The. Fuck?"

"Teo," says little Teo, who coincidentally looks exactly like his body currently does. He hikes his eyebrows. "Hi."

Dumbfounding first, then resignation. "Oh, Christ. I'm fucking psychotic." Teo shoves fingers in through his hair, before cuffing away the beam of penlight slicing at his eyes. Ghost fends him off with forearms crossed and a laugh, acquiesces to tug it away with an irrelevant slur about the current size of his pupils. "I have ruptured the motherfucking stress component of the diathesis-stress model of schizophrenia, or— I have a history of mood and possibly personality disorders on my mom's side, and everyone knows the Finnish are as freakishly inbred as their language—"

Teo, the little one, shakes his head avidly. "Naw. No, no. You're just dreaming."

Pause. He frowns deeper. Grunts, finally: "Heh." Levels an accusatory gaze on the ghost, who merely shrugs, too contemputuous to apologize. Or threaten further. "I couldn't just write in a fucking diary or introspect at cloud shapes in the fucking park. That's what normal people do when they need some fucking exposition." Teo, the merged-but-apparently-dissociative one, lurches to the sink and screws at the handle until the faucet braids water down. It tastes like chalk, or maybe fluorine, or… he's just fucking making it up as the dream goes along. He rubs his thumbs on the white his teeth to relieve the sensation of furry lichen blooms, then scrubs his cheeks, to exfoliate the ashy texture of dehydration. His nose doesn't hurt, now, and his exasperating loss off motor control is throttled by the lucidity of revelation. "I probably should have fucking figured," he says, unfolding his lip. He washes his face in an effort to wake himself up. Or wake up. Or— "You'd be more of a dick. Ghost was becoming less of one."

In the mirror, Ghost kissy-faces. By now, he is straddling the gurney like he's on a pony. Or something. Ignoring him, the younger Teo trots closer, scowling very seriously to show his sincerity, and he comes closer, summoning courage or at least dismantling fear. He roughs a grainily quilted napkin out of the dispenser above his head. "We're still horribly Catholic, you know? Me. Even him," he tips a nod at the ghost. "You.

"It's why we go to retarded extremes. Helena doesn't because she's above them, Sonny didn't because he just couldn't— he had a disability, sort of, the way he was educated and raised— like a prosthesis made out of a ball and chain. It's why we could never be in the army: professional murderers, glorified butchers. Violence toward fellow man that would otherwise be illegal, immoral, or at least frightening— sanctioned. Exceptions made for nationalistic and ethnic divisions that hold as much water as Scientology. You'd rather homogenize the entries columned under 'sin.' It's also why you have so much difficulty with loving anybody you don't admire. Deckard suffers from similar problems, I think; you're both susceptible to disappointment. Whereas Abby—"

Teo snatches the napkin like a birdpeck, and scratches it down his face. Muffledly, "And the part where I don't admire anybody?"

His junior grins, an outgust of breath, shows teeth; hangs up on a brief pause, like he's thinking about finishing the sentence Teo had interrupted, but he ofers instead, "That's just arrogance, vecchio." Shunts his hands into his pockets and the corners of his mouth almost up into his ears. "But I'm not fuckin' wrong.

"It's also the reason you value humanity so highly. You find it so indisputably innate to everybody you know that you never actually have to talk about it. Be they criminal killers or disturbingly hypocritical cops. Eileens and Elisabeths, Felixes, Victors and Magneses, sometimes— sometimes, even the Torus and John Logans. And yours means as much if not more to you than the people you know prize their souls because it was an acquisition. You know. Whereas everybody else you've kept in your life hasn't, you think, lost that homely little armored peach pit of decency initially represented as innocence in the hysterics and preoccupations of infancy, you conditioned common empathy and moral naivete in with practice, exercise, and sea air when you finally got around to growing the fuck up.

"And you're wrong anyway," the younger man adds, leaning his shoulder on the wall. Arms crossed. "Lots of normal fucking people dream when they need exposition."


"You're gay."


Baby Teo looks, for a moment, self-conscious, like he just made an error on the job, caught off-topic and therefore off-guard. After all, he is wont to take his function in this exposition very seriously, further apparent in the studious curl of forefinger around his own chin, instantly wrestling articulation. "Well— uhh. Well…"

Ghost pelvic thrusts. Semi-literally. It's the only way to get the gurney moving, once he has kicked the brake loose, and he comes rattling toward them in a ludicrously infantile stop-start herky-jerky trot that skews into the examination table with a thump. The others look over in disapproval. "What he's trying to say is you should act like a good person.

"This may come as a shock to you, but it doesn't matter you don't know what you're doing. Or why, or how you feel about it after it's done, or that you potentially have lost the capacity to crave acceptance, or make love, or care about children other than the two you lost." The ghost picks up his feet and puts them on the brushed steel. Crouches, looking all the world like a postmodern Puck in his peacoat, slitted eyes, blindness-fucking-inducing flashlight twirled like that flower stem in his fingers. "It's what you do, what you have always done, it's what you're good at and what you would enjoy. Grow up, get over shit. More than the transdimensional coolness of being a bad-ass fighter, or your responsibilities as a hero, you need to practice as a good man again. In public, discreetly, and backwards."

Teo throws paper into the wastebasket. It traces most of a parabola through the air before flipping a cartwheel rebound off the rim. Clatter. "That sounds dishonest. And like a waste of time. I could be doing designer drugs. And being petulant. Or asleep. I really, really fucking need more sleep. Or complaining. Maybe if I was really a good person, I'd let you two come back." His fists chug restlessly at his sides, suspicion knit to the point of puckering the seam in his brow, tearing what's underneath. "Maybe if I was really a good person, I would try to bring Salvatore back, or I'dve been honest with him and I wouldn't have to, or I wouldn'tve lost Hana or given Minea to get her back. Maybe—"

—tomorrow —

Brooklyn Mortuary School — Morgue

Teodoro still wakes up in the morgue, though, at six twenty-eight AM. Cold lethargy still in his toes like he'd extricated himself hand over hand from a sucking quagmire of certain death, shoulders cadaverously stiff within the webbing of his shoulder holster. His neck is bent against the wall at such a severely awkward angle that he notices only after trying to straighten it again makes him feel like a crucial bolt. On his lap, the syringe is empty, but there's neither scab beading on his arm nor an afterglow, and the honeycomb tesselation of cold chamber doors doesn't remind him of anything like that. He remembers his dream.

The sun is out by the time Teo hits the sidewalk, like a cherub bellyflopped in the clouds. There is a small rock inexplicably stuck in his boot, despite that his pants leg hems off below the cuff. Fucking annoying. On top of everything else, he feels hungry enough to eat an omelette as big as his head and he could really use a drink with somebody who is intentionally funny, so he scrolls his phonebook for— what was it?— the King of Swords.

Title is from:

Doll's boy's asleep
under a stile
he sees eight and twenty
ladies in a line

the first lady
says to nine ladies
his lips drink water
but his heart drinks wine

the tenth lady
says to nine ladies
they must chain his foot
for his wrist’s too fine

the nineteenth
says to nine ladies
you take his mouth
for his eyes are mine.

Doll's boy's asleep
under the stile
for every mile the feet go
the heart goes nine

e e cummings,
Doll's boy's asleep

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