The Pulse: Alberta
And Carbuncle his Eyes
Antonio argued with himself over the best strategy to win Beatrice's hand, now that he controlled her heart. He wrote twelve chapters debating the pros and cons of a direct versus a covert assault on the young woman’s virtue. He called the book, Paradise to Gain. Finally, he decided on a direct assault.
At six-thirty in the evening, just as the sun was about to set, Antonio’s body crumbled into a fine dust and drifted to the ground in smoky wraiths. What was once bone, sinew, and vein was now an indistinct silvery coil, moving sluggishly at first, then picking up speed as it moved under the wooden floorboards of Main Street. From there Antonio slithered to the open fields, where he saluted his minions the weasel and rat, his faithful field marschalls in the battle against petal and stem. To them he delivered a rousing speech, full of fiery rage.
As he slithered between the rose bushes that encricled the Oneirica homestead, he intoned two lines from Robert Browning's One Way of Love:
All June I bound the rose in sheaves,
Now, rose by rose, I strip the leaves.
He snaked through the deep sinuous rills of the vegetable garden, up the skinny torsos of the baby cabbages and down the long beards of the pea shoots, stripping the former of its youth and burying the latter in the dust. He hovered for a moment under the kitchen window, and made a circular staircase of his body:
Circular base of rising folds, that towered
Fold above fold, a surging maze! his head
Crested aloft, and carbuncle his eyes;
With burnished neck of verdant gold, erect
Amidst his circling spires
He then hauled himself up the drainpipe.
Beatrice was in the kitchen, dangling her slim fingers above a sink brimming with golden bubbles of Sunlight detergent. Each bubble was like a floating dream, an apple in a angel's eye, clear and sparkling, tinged with delicious green and red flecks, expanding like gold to airy thinness beat.
All of a sudden the bubbles started bursting. Tiny bits fell headlong into the stormy waters below. The few bubbles still floating no longer cast colourful reflections of the golden light. Instead, they seemed to have sneers on their wobbling grey faces — which then popped, splattering soapy film all over the cotton roses stitched into the upper fringes of Beatrice’s blouse.
A novice would conclude this was a result of the air pressure that permeated the surface tension of the bubbles. Yet such rational explanations miss the deeper facts. If you looked more closely, examining each bubble with minute precision, you would detect a well-timed jab, a tiny thrust of two sharp invisible fangs.
Antonio believed that if he could destroy the soul of this one creature — this, God’s finest creation — then he'd be on his way to finishing what he'd started so long ago in the fruit garden. If he could get Beatrice to bite from the apple of disillusionment, then everything she stood for would come crashing to the ground. Then he could finally get revenge on the one they called Father, the one who told everybody what they could and couldn’t eat.
Well, he would make them eat what he pleased! And if they persisted in their fantasies of innocence and obedience, he would rip their little world to pieces. He would tear it all down, like the Garden of Eden, like Augustine's City of God, like Dresden, like all the beauty he despised and couldn't control.
Antonio had even written a poem in anticipation of his victory. He dedicated it to Langston Hughes:
What happens to a Stream reversed,
When expectations of the Golden Age
With Rumpelstiltskin power
Thread Straw from memories of Gold?
If Beatrice fell, then what inspiration would poets and priests have? Or anyone else for that matter? Who would dare climb from this world of doubt and suffering to the black skies above?
Antonio scoffed when he thought of Dante’s proud announcements: I’ son Beatrice che ti faccio andare — It is I, Beatrice, who urges you onward.
Indeed! Antonio thought to himself. This time when Dante's grande dame makes her appearance, she’ll dance to my merry tune!