This is the last outrage, what women do in secret, slipping their fingers under bras or nightgowns on wild, moon-driven nights, needing to true the circle of their breasts, wanting to lunge below desire, beneath arousal and beyond the sweet milk-happiness of feeding children to find the nuclear godawful contraband their bodies might be hiding—the refrain danger, danger, singing in their minds.
At dusk I slip into a pew, enthralled, alert, combing through the week to find what might destroy me, to send it away. Lawyer, accused, bent to root out scandal, my hands judging. And also, maybe guilty.
Unlikely as it sounds, director Tim Burton missed all the jokes in Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street. The origins of the celebrated 1979 musical, written by Stephen Sondheim in collaboration with Hugh Wheeler, lie in the vaudeville-style English music hall tradition and in 19th-century penny dreadfuls.
no bicep, no bone, no lung and no cheek, so lean, not even breath not even earth— humus, placental—nothing but dust nothing but ash burnt up consumed— not the predominant water no song and no sound no taste and no touch no hunger not even age-lame or deaf not even tomb-bound and rotting no pain yes but also no feeling no hope and no hunger the end of I and I think not I hurt or even am nothing no cross on the forehead no forehead no thing at all.
He assumes his still posture two feet from the table. He is not grabby, his tongue is not hanging out, he is quiet.
He wants to leap, he wants to snap up meat and blood. You can tell. But what he does is sit as the gods his masters and mistresses fork steak and potatoes into their mouths.
He is expectant but not presumptuous. He can wait. He can live with disappointment. He can abide frustration and suffer suspense.
He watches for signals, he listens for calls of his name from above.
At hints that he may be gifted with a morsel, he intensifies his already rapt concentration, he looks his god in the eye, but humbly, sure of his innocence in his need, if his need only.
On the (often rare) occasions when gifts are laid on his tongue, he takes them whole, then instantly resumes the posture of attention, beseeching, listening, alert, the posture of hard-won faith that will take no for an answer, yet ever and again hopefully return to the questioning.
I often tell screenwriting students not to avoid the difficult scene. By “difficult scene” I mean one involving a serious confrontation, a declaration of love or infidelity, or a confession of sin or weakness. These are scenes that lesser writers try to work around, since they are so difficult to write. But these scenes are the cornerstones of a meaningful story.
Here in the basement of the Espresso Royale on Sixth Street in this land grant university town, amid English Fog lattes and keypad-clatter, in the afternoon before the all-hallows-eve in which Katie, a great-great-et-cetera granddaughter of the townswoman they hanged for the crime of witchcraft, will play a game—homo ludens— of volleyball against the maize-and-blue Michigan Wolverines I draft a missive to the good citizenry of Dorchester as though they might yet happen upon these words, as though their revivified selves were a short gallop from this latitude and longitude, as though their sins of omission and commission might still be forgiven— not just forgotten—by an act of penance that includes a pilgrimage to tonight’s venue and a maniacal cheering for this descendent as she executes (I didn’t invent the language) a perfect play that culminates in (really, I didn’t) a kill. Full stop because I don’t know how to end this letter. So I do what I always do: continue breaking lines and staggering down the page until it’s time to witness more volleyball and cheer like nothing else ever happens or matters.
Researchers at Yale University School of Public Health have discovered a link between longevity and reading books. People who spend up to 3.5 hours each week engrossed in a book were 17 percent less likely to die in the 12 years following the study, and those who read more than 3.5 hours are 23 percent less likely to die in the same period. The longevity advantage remained even after adjusting the data for education, wealth, cognitive ability, and other variables, although no cause-and-effect relationship was established (Tech Times, August 8).