Andrew Foster

 

SONG



Now a song about predator

And prey, their arms race,

The savanna where the first work was done--

A small boar-horse, bristly, a precursor

Long gone, will evolve bigger and bigger

Until the bulb he once couldn't unroot

Is now only half his hoof's size. All this

To beat death by the pre-tiger, whose teeth

Will sharpen and balloon out on his own time.

		I'm singing that enemies coevolve

		To each other. I'm here among friends,

		In my house, we grill steak, we eat,

		We fight and fuck amongst ourselves.

		The million-year skeleton held

		Between two sheets of lava long stone.







THE CONGERIES	



	I needed to stock up, so I went to The

Congeries. Old Key-Jones was always there. I

opened the door; he was straddling his

velvet-padded bench, dissecting a computer the

size of a watch.

	--Hello, Andrew, he said.

	He leaned forward and lit a candle that

stuck up out of a tin can

	--Hello, I said. My bad of tricks is

 almost empty.

	--Been useful, has it?

	He had his jeweller's glasses on.

	--You wouldn't believe how much. I

only have one thing left.

	--That was a five-fold bag of tricks, if I

remember right. So you need…four new things?

	--That's right.

	He rose, stretching, cracking his back

twice.

	--Let's see what we can find.

	He tottered back into the boxes and 

bicycles, and slid aside a silver curtain.

 	 --Why don't you come back here, he

said. I think you'd like to see some of this stuff.

	He was right. I quickly walked over. The

room was bulging with shelves of objects. The

first thing I saw was a severed hand in a

vacuum-sealed case. It was a woman's hand. It

was set on a mirror. The hand had been laid

palm down, so that its reflection created the

illusion of two hands pressed in prayer. And

sure enough, it was the hand of a Sweet Saint. A

small plaque on the side said: Mathilde of

Mansecis, Scorned into Answered Prayer.

	--She had beautiful hands, Key-Jones

said. But she was not beautiful. She was born

without eyes, and had a brutally off-kilter face.

She was treated very badly; chased out of her

home into the hills. Yet she found her way to

Caeaen and became a Sweet Saint. You never

know, do you?

	He paused.

	--Don't ask me how I got it, he said.

	--How did you get it?

	He smiled and moved further into the 

room. He picked up a smooth plastic box from a

low shelf. It was cream-colored. It had a large

opening on one side.

	--Go ahead, put your hand in the hole,

he said.

	--Don't hurt me, I said to the box,

cautiously slipping my fingers in.

	There was a kind of plastic glove inside,

Which my hand fit into loosely. Key-Jones

Pressed a hidden button, and the glove

Shrink-wrapped itself around me.

	--Hold still, he said.

Metal feelers came out inside, and held

my fingers still. I felt a brief flash of heat, and

then a sting on each of my fingertips. Then the

machinery and the glove released; I pulled my

hand out. There were tiny red tattoos embossed

into each of my fingernails: a bull's head, a

spoon, an Eiffel Tower, a butterfly, and a hand

with outstretched fingers.

	--They'll last for a few weeks. Enjoy.

	I smelled my fingernails. A scent like 

burnt wool. Hmm, I thought.