…lately on school forms [Hale] had begun writing AGN, for agnostic, when his religious denomination was asked for, rather than RC for Roman Catholic. At least from a distance, communism had seemed to offer a realistic, contemporary and even geographical alternative, in dealing with the vague yet nagging sense of spiritual duty, to the remembered devotions and gospel texts and rosaries; and in any case international ‘solidarity’ seemed to be the only pragmatic hope for defeating Nazi Germany.
[Anis del Toro] tastes like licorice,” the girl said and put the glass down.
“That’s the way with everything."
"Yes,” said the girl. “Everything tastes of licorice. Especially all the things you’ve waited so long for, like absinthe.
I looked in the mirror again: all that flesh, all of it available and tender, yet somehow locked away. I stepped into the bath and sat down, then slid all the way under, submerging my head under the suds for a few seconds. I could hear my heart underwater, beating out a sad echo. That, I thought, is the sound of loneliness.
A checkered baby copperhead halts two feet from me in the ochre and sanguine frail leaves – it is worse to be bitten by a baby because they cannot control their aqueducts of venom – and stands static as a tree as I watch the interlocked tiles of her skin, dry and rough in the dehydrated air. Her triangle head concentrates on the stillness of my leather boots, and I know there will be no holding her at arms length, a limp devastated cord, as I have dangled the flaccid scooting garters who terrorize my tomato patch, or the meter long scratched silver mill snakes who stalk my father’s fish ponds. This snake, this fire brown baby, is a cylinder of warrior snake spirit, a potent packet of power pressed into an amber tube. Her pink antennae tongue splits at …