"I wished we had stayed in England. You could have waited for Oxford or Cambridge. And we could have at least maintained a measure of dignity."
"I'll admit there's not much of that."
Long limbed Marion settled in the chair. What makes you so tall and slender. You raise your eyelids and cross your legs with something I like and wear sexless shoes with sexiness. And Marion I'll say this for you, you're not blatant. And when we get our house in the West with Kerry cattle out on the hills sucking up the grass and I'm Dangerfield K.C., things will be fine again.
A tram pounding by the window, grinding, swaying and rattling on its tracks to Dalkey. A comforting sound. Maps shaking on the wall. Ireland a country of toys. And maybe I ought to go over to Marion on the couch. We're experimenting with marriage. Got to find the contraceptives or else another screaming mouth for milk. The brown-eyed girl in the laundry is about twenty-five. Marion sucking on her false teeth again, I think it must be a sign of wanting it.
In the bedroom, Dangerfield rubbing stockinged feet on the cold linoleum. And the sound of Marion using the piss pot behind Skully's genuine Ming dynasty screen. And a little tug at these tattered shades for the privacy. Even in this great Catholic country you've got to keep covered, you know, or they watch you undress, but mind you, the Protestants use a field glass.
And Marion clutching the hem of her dress and drawing it over her shifting shoulders. She said there was only thirty shillings left.
"Our good accents and manners will see us right. Didn't you know, Marion, they can't put Protestants in jail?"
"You've no responsibility and to have my child raised among a lot of savage Irish and be branded with a brogue for the rest of her life. Pass me my cream, please."
Sebastian passing the cream, smiling and waving his feet from the edge of the bed. Letting his body fall with a squeal of springs and looking at the patches of pink in the ceiling. Marion a bit upset and I confused. Difficult for her. She was breaking. Isn't as strong as me, led a sheltered life. Maybe shouldn't have married me. Matter, all of it, of time. Pumping it around and around and around, air in, air out and then it all goes like the shutters of a collapsing house. Starts and ends in antiseptic smell. Like to feel the end would be like closing leaves of honeysuckle, pressing out a last fragrance in the night but that only happens to holy men. Find them in the morning with a smile across the lips and bury them in plain boxes. But I want a rich tomb of Vermont marble in Woodlawn Cemetery, with automatic sprinkler and evergreens. If they get you in the medical school they hang you up by the ears. Never leave me unclaimed, I beg of you. Don't hang me all swollen, knees pressing the red nates of others where they come into see if I'm fat or lean and all of us stabbed to death on the Bowery. Kill you in the tenement streets and cover you in flowers and put in the juice. By God, you hulking idiots, keep the juice away from me. Because I'm a mortician and too busy to die.
"Marion, do you ever think of death?"
"Marion, do you ever think you're going to die?"
"I say, Sebastian, would you mind awfully stopping that sort of talk. You're in that nasty mood."
"Not at all."
"You are. Coming up here every morning to watch the funerals of these wretched people. Dreadful and sordid. I think you get a perverse pleasure out of it."
"Beyond this vale of tears, there is a life above, unmeasured by the flight of years and all that life is love."
"You think you're frightening me with these sinister airs of yours. I find them only boring and they tend to make you repulsive."
"Yes, they do."
"For the love of Jesus, look at me. Look at my eyes. Go ahead, come on."
"I don't want to look in your eyes."
"Honest globes they are."
"You can't talk seriously about anything."
"I just asked you about death. Want to know how you feel, really get to know you. Or maybe you think this is forever."
"Rubbish. You think it's forever, I know you do. You're not as flippant as this in the mornings, I notice."
"Takes me a few hours to adapt. Snap out of the dream."
"And you scream."
"You were yelling a few nights ago, how do I get out of this. And another time you were screaming, what's that white thing in the comer, take it away."
Dangerfield holding his belly, laughing on the squeaking springs.
"You can laugh, but I think there's something serious at the root of it."
"What's at the root? Can't you see I'm mad. Can't you see? Look. See. Madness. E. I'm mad."
Sebastian ogled and wagged his tongue.
"Stop it. Always willing to clown but never to do any thing useful."
Dangerfield watched from the bed as she flexed her long arms behind her back and her breasts fell from the cups of her brassiere, tan nipples hardening in the cold air. Red line on her shoulder left by the strap. Stepping wearily out of her underpants, facing the mirror and rubbing white cream into her hands and face. Little brown strands growing round the nipples. You've often said, Marion, about giving it the wax treatment but I like them that way after all.
Sebastian quietly stepping from the bed approaching the naked body. Pressing his fists against her buttocks and she pushes his hands away.
"I don't like you touching me there."
And kissing her on the back of the neck. Wet the skin with the tongue and the long blond hair gets in the mouth. Marion taking the blue nightdress from the nail. Sebastian stripping and sitting naked on the edge of the bed, taking white fluff out of the navel, and doubling himself, plucking the congealed dirt from between his toes.
"Sebastian, I wish you'd take a bath."
"Kills the personality."
"You were so clean when I first knew you."
"Given up the cleanliness for a life of the spirit. Preparation for another and better world. Hardly take offence at a little scruffiness. Clean soul's my motto. Take off your nightie."
"Where are they?"
"Under my shirts."
"And the vaseline?"
"Behind the books on the box."
Marion ripping the silver paper. Americans great for packages. Wrap anything up. And she draws the opening of her nightdress back from her shoulders, letting it fan to her feet and folding it carefully across the books. She kneels on the bed. What are other men like, do they grunt and groan, are they all curved and circumcised, with or without. She climbs into bed, a soft voice.
"Let's do it the way, we used to in Yorkshire."
"Do you still like my breasts the way they are?"
"Tell me things, Sebastian, talk to me. I want to know."
Sebastian rolled near, pressing the long, blond body to his, thinking of a world outside beating drums below the window in the rain. All slipping on the cobble stones. And standing aside as a tram full of Bishops rumbles past, who hold up sacred hands in blessing. Marion's hand tightening and touching in my groin. Ginny Cupper took me in her car fields of Indiana. Parking near the edge of woods and walking out into the sunny rows of corn, waving seeds to a yellow horizon. She wore a white blouse and a gray patch of sweat under her arms and the shadow of her nipples was gray. We were rich. So rich we could never die. Ginny laughed and laughed, white saliva on her teeth lighting up the deep red of her mouth, fed the finest food in the world. Ginny was afraid of nothing. She was young and old. Her brown arms and Iegs swinging in wild optimism, beautiful in all their parts. She danced on the long hood of her crimson Cadillac, and watching her, I thought that God must be female. She leaped into my arms and knocked me to the ground and screamed into my mouth. Heads pressed in the hot Indiana soil and pinned me in a cross. A crow cawed into the white sun and my sperm spurted into the world. Ginny had driven her long Cadillac through the guard rails of a St. Louis bridge and her car shone like a clot of blood in the mud and murk of the Mississippi. We were all there in the summer silence of Suffolk, Virginia, when the copper casket was gently placed in the cool marble vault. I smoked a cigarette and crushed it out on the black and white squares of the tomb. In the stagnant emptiness of the train station after the cars were gone, I walked into the women's toilet and saw the phallic obscenities on the wooden doors and gray walls. I wonder if people will think I'm a lecher. Ginny had gardenias in her lovely brown hair. I hear the train, Marion's breath in my ear. My stomach's shaking, my last strength. The world's silent. Crops have stopped growing. Now they grow again.
---from The Ginger Man
©1955, J. P. Donleavy