The delicately carved marble box with the inlaid pearl-flower

sits on the wooden, polished bar. Robert eyes it while watching the

others both real and in the mirror.


David finally made it to Benjamin’s, a Toronto nightclub in the

fashionable Yorkville district. Robert hadn’t planned on stopping

here. But a good place to show off the box. All he has left of David. It

was the largest marble box Robert could find in Chinatown. He had

asked the store clerk to seal it with clear packing tape. Sprinkling

David’s ashes throughout the city was not his intention though it had

been impossible not to hear the bits and pieces of David’s skeleton

dancing on the inside of the box. A musical bone box. Robert hears

David’s voice saying those words. From the Chair to a Chinese musical

bone box.


What next? Robert didn’t know. Maybe use the box as a musical

instrument the next time he played a bar. Amplify it. Say it was a

strange new musical instrument from China.


Dance for me David. He nudges the box, hoping for warmth.

The movement catches the attention of those around, who stare.

David they are not staring at you, Robert says. Yes they are, David

says. Yes they are.

He knew David was terminal this last trip to the hospital. The

chronic bowel infection coupled with high blood pressure and a

stomach aneurysm had turned David, gray, and an odd, old man,

though only thirty-five, Robert’s age.


That last night, with a summer storm crashing around the hospital,

David had reminded him of some Shakespearean king, approaching

his final moment. Now David resting (not necessarily at

peace) on top of the shining bar in Benjamin’s, free finally of his



The cremation had been at nine in the morning; his watch had

just beeped midnight. Gin swirls the inside of Robert’s mouth, numb

and sweet. He’s mute, shakes his head at himself.

Always something breached, open, some wound, hole. Some

bleeding problem. Some box you’re trying to get out of, or into. Some

slippery energy you’re always trying to hold.


Energy a problem, always is in nature, David’s voice again. Too

much, not enough.


David had conserved his, by not working, though trained as an

architect. He accepted what the government would give, to be as free

as he could, turning inward, sitting with his books, joining his obscurities,

playing with Derrida and McLuhan.


Just as he was sometimes assaulted by the smell of David’s

colostomy bag so sometimes was Robert assaulted by the mass of

facts and contradictions that came out of David’s pain-twisted mouth.

But funny too, and so friends, once upon a time. Both orphans. Both

a family of sorts.


Now the box, and ee cumming’s line, he’s a wet dream by

Cezanne. The faces in the bar take on the same golden sexual glow

that he associates both with the line and the painter. A golden, wet

dream if not for the actual words breaking him.


“She’d fuck her own father for an eighth.”

“Tramp in the dust, that’s all she is.”

“The operation, penis folded back into a vagina, all sense strays

in the brain.”


Gradually the words falling into themselves, the faces filling the

spaces, a smear of yellow-stained flesh, ready to be wiped. Maybe his

mind rorschaching the words, the scene, what with the gin his blood,

blurring him, them.


The main doors opening more frequently; a rush of warmer,

more humid air. More white limos in front stopping. Women in

leather miniskirts hopping out and he feels the turning. A push from

behind, head snaps forward. Feels like a lash of a whip as the long red

nails scratch his cheek. Stands up drink in hand, always with the box,

the question, Robert too drunk to answer, he wants to be led, not sure

if he tells, the sheheshehe laughter (the slaughter) and then a taxi, a

drive and then…

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