Category Archives: Ed Kurtz

Namesake

For a long time Claude stared at the body, or at least the part of it visible from behind the davenport, which were the feet, ankles, and part of the calves. The legs were encased in nude stockings. There was a run in one of them, which Claude judged to be the left leg. On each foot was a red sling-back heel, the right dangling from the toes, the left slightly scuffed along the inward side. Above the davenport a ceiling fan with latticed blades rotated sluggishly, its motor droning like an intoxicated wasp. Claude raised his eyes from the corpse’s feet to the fan, lighted a Gauloises that he had been holding for several minutes, and decided, quite conclusively, that he should never have come here at all.
+++++For a long time Claude stared at the ceiling fan, allowing his eyes to lock onto a single blade and follow its languid circumlocutions. He counted the revolutions, and after every ten he permitted himself a drag from the cigarette. This became a little game. With one part of his brain be counted the complete turns, while with another part he clocked the passing seconds. He did this for six consecutive rounds of ten revolutions, and averaged the lot out to thirteen seconds for ten turns. The seconds turned to minutes and the minutes loped along. Claude’s cigarette burned down to the filter. The body remained exactly as it was.
+++++Claude tamped the spent butt in an ashtray shaped like a heart. He closed his eyes, and recreated the room from memory. The davenport, the orange and white afghan folded neatly over its back, the braided rug (to match the afghan), the little mahogany table with the heart-shaped ashtray on top, a torchiere floor lamp with a stained glass shade, French doors in the back leading to the screened-in patio, a closed door to the left leading to the walk that led to the street, a bloodstained cock made of glass (cracked) on the scratched hardwood floor, the ceiling fan overseeing it all, whipping its blades one hundred and eighty degrees every one-point-three seconds. He rolled his eyes around in their sockets, estimating where the pupils were pointed, and opened them again to find the bloody phallus in his direct line of sight. It was, Claude thought, rude. Not merely by being, but in the way it had been displayed, right on the table, rather than secreted away for private, thrillingly shameful use. He recalled how it absorbed attention, standing erect on its base to point at the fan in a manner Claude, when he first entered the room, found absurdly haughty. So too he found its placement next to the ashtray grotesque; all of a sudden the room became an abattoir, with eviscerated heart and severed member in evidence, and the room’s mistress a grinning, clawed cat, a butcheress keen on expanding her collection. Now, more so: the heart seared with hot ash, the cock splintered and blood-wet. All the more appalling, with only himself to blame.
+++++Claude sighed. He swallowed. Wiped his brow, just at the hairline, where a slight sheen of sweat had begun to form. Thought about parts of a whole, out of their natural context—hearts and feet and, yes, cocks—and the anxiety their unnatural separation caused him.
+++++He thought about his sister, Marianne, there on the floor, behind the davenport, mostly obscured from his view but not entirely. Reduced to parts. Poor Marianne.
+++++Poor, cruel Marianne.
+++++Her head bashed in with her own rude joke. A lesson in manners, par excellence. Be careful what you sow. Beware the company you keep. A lady must always maintain a certain modicum of coyness. Maman’s words, but not to Claude. To Marianne. Forgotten, or ignored. She knew the phallus would rile him. It did.
+++++Claude wondered: where did one acquire something so grotesque?
+++++So too he wondered: would the rest of them conclude so artfully, would the others die so meaningfully? (Even if, like Marianne, by happy accident?)
+++++Blood, he said aloud, was a funny bit of business.
+++++Rising to his feet, Claude went at last to the back of the davenport and glanced down at what remained of his sister, her auburn hair a sticky pigeon’s nest at her temple, her light-brown eyes rolled back and almost, but not completely, closed. The faintest hint of shadow from the ceiling fan’s blades swam over the contours of her face, like marine life vaguely viewed from the bow of the ferry at Le Havre.
+++++Dormez bien, ma chère (said Claude, a falsetto impression of Maman’s deplorable schoolgirl French). With this last adieu he kissed Marianne on her dry, ashen lips, seized the offending member from its resting place on the floor, and set out, leaving the door slightly ajar, in search of the matriarch of the Glascock clan. Dear Maman! He would tell her what nasty Marianne had done, her ugly put-on, and then show the old magpie the instrument in question (exhibit A, should it please the court) before repeating his performance, mollified by Maman’s disgust in equal measure to his own.
+++++No, he should never have gone there at all. But, things being as they were—all things being indeed, he concluded, precisely as they were—Claude had more work to do. The cracked crystalline phallus in hand (his namesake grasped tight), Claude walked to the curb and gazed across the street, to the white-shuttered Charentaise opposite Marianne’s quaint cottage, strangled with bougainvillea. And, inwardly, he at last agreed with his mother that, yes, it was really rather expedient that the family all lived together on the same street since Papa passed on, n’est-ce pas?
+++++Blood was a funny bit of business.
+++++Claude rang the bell.