All Told

SWEET BOVINE DREAMS

Melanie dreams sweet bovine dreams; rollicking past the rounder rhythms of cud and udder, through rodeo jangle (buck and bray) and into something thinner brighter, something more like sacrifice. Roger shifts the pillows, fighting feathers and foam, blinking at the static street light shadows (no wind, no tremors); he begins the count again. Melanie dreams (get along little doggie) of Uncle Spark, his boots black and pointy as slivers of pie. Tomorrow she will blow the candles out; one, two; not enough to signify. Melanie and the cow reach the opening at the same time. Melanie looks at the cow. Roger's breath tickles her neck. And Uncle Spark, with his nose like a beak, rode her around on his high bony shoulders singing (doggie, get along little doggie) and howled like the moon. Everyone in the crowd is making the same sound. She is torn between a desire to serve and a fearsome unwillingness to be used. The smell of burning, the smell of dust, Uncle Spark showing off his gun. Roger's mouth is on her skin (teeth and tongue and sleepless hunger). Her arms divide and multiply. She has finger cymbals on every hand. The crowd reveres her. Everything she touches turns to cinder and ash. In her dream she dreams she is rocket fuel. Tomorrow she will call the bank, and stop by the store for a nice piece of meat. Roger should do it but Roger won't think of it. Melanie looks at the cow. "You first," she says. Tomorrow she will blow the candles out.

1989