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    Blake Butler

    6. The Infusions

    By Blake Butler

    Jad’s spine stung in the low wind from the burnfields in no light. Black sun on black sky, black hidden half-moon, the black air bending backward all that black year. Jad had held the torches at right angles for eight hours, and eight hours, several days now, waiting. He’d burned the celebration flares. The ash fields sucked the light and color from the burning. The stretched air ate the sound.

    For weeks now the only word that would come out when Jad spoke was brother. “Brother, brother,” on and on. There was no one to say the word to, and so he said it on and on, into the ash, watching the far lip of the flat fields for any chip of movement, any blur. His twin was out there somewhere. His twin named like his name, if just off, one line in one letter tugged taut to change the middle sound. Jad’s brother Jod. Jod who had still not come back out of the ash there since last leaving. Jod with the birthmark underneath his tongue, which at birth had been the one thing that kept them separate, even in their mother’s eyes. Otherwise they were a matchless match, a replication. Mirrors mirroring their brother selves.

    About the birthing Jad could still recall certain things—the suck of sound before the exit, the peeling of their two twin skins, the drawl—and then suddenly his mother’s fingers, scissors, the light inside that room. . . . Read More.

    44. The Gown from Mother’s Stomach

    By Blake Butler

    The mother ate thread and lace for four weeks so that her daughter would have a gown. She was tired of not being able to provide her daughter with the things many other girls took for granted. Their family was poor and the mother’s fingers ached with arthritis so she couldn’t bring herself to sew. Instead she chewed the bed sheets until they were soft enough to swallow. She bit the curtains and gnawed the pillow. With one wet finger she swiped the floor for dust. God will knit it in my womb like he did you, she murmured. When you wear it you will blind the world. She refused to listen to reason. She ate toilet tissue and sheets of paper and took medication that made her constipated. She stayed in bed instead of sitting for dinner. Carrots don’t make a dress, she croaked. Her stomach grew distended. She began having trouble standing up. Her hair fell out and she ate that too. She ripped the mattress and munched the down. She ate the clothing off her body. The father was always gone. He worked day and night to keep food the mother wasn’t eating on the table. When he did get home he was too tired to entertain the daughter’s pleas to make the mother stop. Such a tease, that woman, he said in his sleep, already dreaming. Such a card. Because her mother could no longer walk, the daughter spent the evenings by the bedside listening to rambles. The mother told about the time she’d seen a bear. A bear the size of several men, she said. There in the woods behind our house, when I was still a girl like you. The mother had stood in wonder watching while the bear ate a whole deer. It ate the deer’s cheeks, its eyes, its tongue, its pelt. It ate everything but the antlers. The mother had waited for the bear to leave so she could take the antlers home and wear them, but the bear had just gone on laying, stuffed, smothered in blood. The mother swore then—her eyes grew massive in the telling—the bear had spoken. It’d looked right at the mother and said, quite casual, My god, I was hungry. Its voice was gorgeous, deep and groaning. The mother could hardly move. I didn’t know bears could talk, she said finally, and the bear had said, Of course we can. It’s just that no one ever takes the time to hear. We are old and we are lonely and we have dreams you can’t imagine. . . . Read More.

    11. The Copy Family

    By Blake Butler


    When the family came to live in the new house, they found another family already there. An exact copy of their family—a copy father, mother, and son. The copy family members stood each in a room alone unblinking. The copy family would not speak when spoken in to—though they had heartbeat, they were breathing. Their copy eyes were wet and stretched with strain. Their copy skin felt like our skin. Their copy hearts beat at their chests.

    The father flicked the copy father on the arm there by the window in the kitchen—the window where on so many coming days the father would look out onto the yard—the yard where the copy family had moved and laughed and dug and thought and fought and seen the sky change color. The father watched the copy father flinch. The copy father’s fat ring finger had on thirteen copy rings. In the copy father’s copy eyes the father could read his other’s current scrolling copy thoughts:

    This is my house.

    This is our house.

    This is where I am.

    2. HOUSES

    The father’d bought the house with paper money. He’d worked for years and years. If asked he could not say for certain what the work was. Mostly all he did all day any day was look into a blank screen flush with light. Sometimes the father looked at porn or ads or sports scores, but mostly just the light. The father had fat fingers. . . . Read More.

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