'Fairy tales are full of impossible tasks:
Gather the chin hairs of a man-eating goat,
Or cross a sulphuric lake in a leaky boat,
Select the prince from a row of identical masks,
Tiptoe up to a dragon where it basks
And snatch its bone; count dust specks, mote by mote,
Or learn the phone directory by rote.
Always it’s impossible what someone asks— You have to fight magic with magic. You have to believe
That you have something impossible up your sleeve,
The language of snakes, perhaps, an invisible cloak,
An army of ants at your beck, or a lethal joke,
The will to do whatever must be done:
Marry a monster. Hand over your firstborn son.'
'When Murray Jacob Katz was ten years old, he'd begun wondering whether he was permitted to believe in heaven, as were his various Christian friends. Jews believed so many impressive and dramatic things, it seemed only logical to regard death as less permanent than one might conclude from, say, coming across a stone-stiff cat in a Newark sewer. "Pop, do we have heaven?" he'd asked on the day he discovered the cat. "You want to know a Jew's idea of heaven?" his father had replied, looking up from his Maimonides. "It's an endless succession of long winter nights on which we get paid a fair wage to sit in a warm room and read all the books ever written." Phil Katz was an intense, shriveled man with a defective aorta; in a month his heart would seize up like an overburdened automobile engine. "Not just the famous ones, no, every book, the stuff nobody gets around to reading, forgotten plays, novels by people you never heard of. However, I profoundly doubt such a place exists."
Decades later, after Pop was dead and Murray's life had been relocated to Atlantic City, he began transforming his immediate environment, making it characteristic of heaven. The whole glorious span of Dewey's decimal system soon filled the lighthouse, book after book spiraling up the tower walls like threads of DNA, delivering intellectual matter to Murray's mammalian cortex and wondrous smells to the reptilian regions below—the gluey tang of a library discard, the crisp plebeian aroma of a yard-sale paperback, the pungent mustiness of a thrift-store encyclopedia. When the place became too crowded, Murray simply built an addition [...]'
Only Begotten Daughter
'Good intentions, Julie learned, were among the more innocuous commodities paving the road to hell. The sea lanes threading the archipelago were dark sewery channels choked with dead tuna, while the islands themselves suggested humpback whales stitched together by Victor Frankenstein. The predictability of Wyvern's operation depressed her: one heard from earliest childhood that in hell the convicted dead receive atrocious punishments, and that was exactly what each island offered. Training her binoculars on a plateau, she saw over a dozen naked men chained Prometheuslike to huge rocks; crazed panthers ripped open their bellies, hauling their soppy intestines down slopes like kittens unraveling yarn. On the shores of the adjacent island, a long line of sinners stood buried up to their necks, their exposed heads resting atop the sand like beachballs; shell-crackers fixed in their claws, ravenous lobsters crawled out of the surf, breached the skulls, and, buttering the exposed brains, feasted. On other islands Julie beheld the damned drawn and quartered. Skinned alive. Broken on racks, impaled on stakes, drilled to pieces by hornets. And always the pain was infinite, always the victim wound find his mangled flesh restored and the torment beginning again. Contrary to Dante Alighieri's inspiration, hell's motto was not, ALL HOPE ABANDON, YE WHO ENTER IN but merely, SO WHAT DID YOU EXPECT?'
- (Page 169)
' "Babies are like kittens, Julie, they grow into something much more sinister." '
- (Page 258)
' "You really don't know what happened up there?" Julie dipped her ladle into the stream. "You don't know you became the center of Western civilization?"
"There are Christians in every corner of the globe."
Jesus helped the goitrous man off the slab and escorted him out of the cave. "There are who?"
"Christians. The people who worship you. The ones who call you Christ."
"Worship me? Please . . ." Jesus scratched his forehead with his ladle. " 'Christ'—that's Greek, isn't it? An anointed one, a king. Next!"
"By 'Christ,' most people mean a savior. They mean God become flesh."
"Odd translation." As Jesus refilled his ladle, a woman entered whose hair was singed down to her scalp, giving her the appearance of a chemotherapy patient. "What else do Christics teach?"
"That, by following you, a person obtains remission from original sin. You don't know this?"
"Original sin? When did I ever talk about that?" Jesus wet the hairless woman. "Ethics was my big concern. Read the Bible." His birdish hands wove through the air, landing smoothly atop his King James version. "Original sin? Are you serious?"
"Your death atoned for Adam's guilt."
"Oh, come on," Jesus snickered. "That's paganism, Julie. You're talking Attis, Dionysus, Osiris—the sacrificial god whose suffering redeems his followers. Every town had one in those days. Where was Paul from?"
"I dropped by Tarsus once," said Jesus, leafing through the epistles. "The local god was Baal-Taraz, I believe." He pressed the open Bible against his chest like a poultice. "Good heavens, is that what I became? Another propitiation deity?"
"I hate to be the one telling you this." Julie ministered to the hairless woman.
"So the gentiles won the day? Is that why John's book talks about eternal life instead of the kingdom? Did Christicism become an eternal-life religion?"
"Accept Jesus as your personal redeemer." Julie corroborated, "and you'll be resuscitated after you die and taken up into the clouds."
"The clouds? No, 'Thy kingdom come on earth,' remember? And look at my parables, all those gritty metaphors—the kingdom is yeast, Julie, it's a mustard seed, a treasure in a field, a landowner hiring workers for his vineyard . . ."
"A pearl of great price," said the woman on the slab.
"Right. We're not talking clouds here." Jesus' beautiful hand soared, wrist holes singing. "I mean, how can you bring about utopia with one eye cocked on eternity?" His hands fell. "Oh, now I get it—that's how they accommodated my not returning, yes? They shifted the reunion to some netherworld."
"Evidently." Julie removed the bald sinner's shingle.
"While we're at it," gasped the prisoner, "maybe you could settle a major controversy. Does the wafer turn into your flesh and bones?"
"Does the what do what?" said Jesus.
"The Eucharist," Julie explained. "The wafer becomes your body, the wine becomes your blood"—her voice trailed off: how, exactly, would he feel about the next step?—"and then, well . . ."
"And then we eat you," said the bald woman.
"You what?" said Jesus.
"No, the whole thing has a real, mysterious poetry," the bald woman hastened to add. "Through the Eucharist, we partake of your life and substance. Go to Mass sometime. You'll see."
"I think I'll pass on that one," said God's son. "Next!" '
- (Page 184-186)
Sorry, i couldn't choose.
My first loaf of the tin variety.
It doesn't look exactly like the recipe i followed.
A little more on the well-fired side.
Grainier than suggested.
But it tastes pretty good and the consistency is more akin to sandwich bread than my other attempts - which is exactly what i wanted.
Much less honey next time though.
And perhaps mostly all plain flour to get that classic white loaf look.
And most definitely less twirling around in a dough-based panic.
Baking is bloody stressful.
But two hours work for two loaves of extremely toastable bread?
It's worth a little twirling.
Or maybe that's my bread-lust talking.
Who actually knows anymore?
'The world is full of women
who’d tell me I should be ashamed of myself
if they had the chance. Quit dancing.
Get some self-respect
and a day job.
Right. And minimum wage,
and varicose veins, just standing
in one place for eight hours
behind a glass counter
bundled up to the neck, instead of
naked as a meat sandwich.
Selling gloves, or something.
Instead of what I do sell.
You have to have talent
to peddle a thing so nebulous
and without material form.
Exploited, they’d say. Yes, any way
you cut it, but I’ve a choice
of how, and I’ll take the money.
I do give value.
Like preachers, I sell vision,
like perfume ads, desire
or its facsimile. Like jokes
or war, it’s all in the timing.
I sell men back their worse suspicions:
that everything’s for sale,
and piecemeal. They gaze at me and see
a chain-saw murder just before it happens,
when thigh, ass, inkblot, crevice, tit, and nipple
are still connected.
Such hatred leaps in them,
my beery worshippers! That, or a bleary
hopeless love. Seeing the rows of heads
and upturned eyes, imploring
but ready to snap at my ankles,
I understand floods and earthquakes, and the urge
to step on ants. I keep the beat,
and dance for them because
they can’t. The music smells like foxes,
crisp as heated metal
searing the nostrils
or humid as August, hazy and languorous
as a looted city the day after,
when all the rape’s been done
already, and the killing,
and the survivors wander around
looking for garbage
to eat, and there’s only a bleak exhaustion.
Speaking of which, it’s the smiling
tires me out the most.
This, and the pretence
that I can’t hear them.
And I can’t, because I’m after all
a foreigner to them.
The speech here is all warty gutturals,
obvious as a slab of ham,
but I come from the province of the gods
where meanings are lilting and oblique.
I don’t let on to everyone,
but lean close, and I’ll whisper:
My mother was raped by a holy swan.
You believe that? You can take me out to dinner.
That’s what we tell all the husbands.
There sure are a lot of dangerous birds around.
Not that anyone here
but you would understand.
The rest of them would like to watch me
and feel nothing. Reduce me to components
as in a clock factory or abattoir.
Crush out the mystery.
Wall me up alive
in my own body.
They’d like to see through me,
but nothing is more opaque
than absolute transparency.
Look--my feet don’t hit the marble!
Like breath or a balloon, I’m rising,
I hover six inches in the air
in my blazing swan-egg of light.
You think I’m not a goddess?
This is a torch song.
Touch me and you’ll burn.'
Helen of Troy Does Countertop Dancing
'They held hands. They formed
dozens of circles around their deflated smoldering balloons. Balloons silken globes the colors magenta grass green and sky blue were mud strewn wet with holy water and burned black through the stitching.
Bianca said, I don't understand.
Thaddeus said, I don't either.
Is this February's doing, she said.
Maybe, said Thaddeus who looked up at the sky.
A scroll of parchment was nailed to an oak tree, calling for the end of all things that could fly. Everyone in town gathered around to read it. Trumpets moaned from the woods. Birds dropped from branches. The priests walked through town swinging axes. Bianca clutched Thaddeus's leg, and he picked her up under the arms and told her to hold him like a baby tree around the neck and Thaddeus ran.'
'Act I The Witches
We are women. It is enough. We never boiled cats in a cauldron. Never Greteled a girl in a stove. No poisoned apples, no dancing nude in a forest. Not even a song for the moon.
We have mistakes and privileges, wounds, masks. We have thread and flour, children. Perhaps a pair of red shoes.
Here again, the moon rises. And here again, the preacher. And here again, the village. We’ve been hunted before. Dragged by our hair, mouthfuls of mud. Salved burst lips and cigarette burns. Been the blood at the stabbing, the break in the bone.
Here again, us. Gossip rattling our doors, a hundred hungry dolls in the cornfield, chanting our names. Their torches lighting the sky.
Act II The Preacher
I was your first murder, but you’ve forgotten. Left your church after the rotted truth. All the broken teeth. Your stash of sucked-dry bones, the jars of hair. You are running out of women to burn.
Stop blaming everyone else for your sins. You snuck through the houses. You slaughtered the dogs. Now, your weeping, beguiled moppets. Your devoted choir. They cannot unsing your crimes.
Face me, Parris. Come to my tombstone and pray. Remember me. I was alive once. I watched you pour the gasoline. Mine was the voice begging No when you struck the match.
Act III The Village
When the man at the altar (microphone) speaks, you say it is gospel. His word, The Word. His hand on a good book (beer), his hand on his heart (penis). If he says he did not murder, he did not murder. If he says he did not lie, he did not lie. And none shall speak against it. And none shall speak at all.
And here again, the moon rises. And here again, the preacher. Oh, you gaggle of trained chickens, you flurry of cluck and feather! Let me drag you to the pile of charred bones. Press your noses to the rotting flesh. This woman was a teacher. This, a painter. This girl, here, was a person. She had a heart and a face. A mind of questions, ambitions, and love. She had love.
Look what you’ve done. Your hands, covered in soot. The reek of smoke. This mountain of bodies. This, your mother. Your sister. Here, your own smoldering daughter.'
The Sociopath's wife
What do you when your day starts with a confidence-knocking bang?
You play God with carbohydrates.
My first Focaccia.
One of my Top 5 bread types.
A bread which just the smell of can reduce me to a catatonic state.
I shouldn't have learnt how to do this.
It does need some work, though.
Less dough or a bigger pan.
Possibly rosemary-infused oil.
And a longer bake - dependant on the amount of dough used.
So not a bread fail but not a total Betty.
I'll just have to make another one.
Woe is me.
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