The Bukowski Agency - Reproduction - Excerpt

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Reproduction

a novel by Ian Williams

EXCERPT

EDGAR, AT LEAST, WAS ON TIME.

Normally, when he returned from a trip, Felicia would be at the door with 360-degree, first-class service. That Sunday, after a week away, he didn’t even get economy service. He stood in the doorway of the living room, calling for Felicia, whining out the last syllable, waiting, as if he had forgotten how to take off his coat. He had smoked on the flight and in the car, but he wanted a house-cigarette, a drink, a shower, meat. He wanted help taking off his big-boy coat.

Down the hallway, in the dark, he saw Felicia’s silhouette sit up and lean its forehead on the inside of its wrist. Then it, she, walked to the kitchen without a word.

It’s so good to see you, Edgar, darling, he said. How was your trip? Enh. Smoked my way through.

He met her in the kitchen and pinched her hip.

Don’t provoke me, Edgar. Felicia turned on the oven. She took out his plate and laid it face down.

A little conversation, he said.

Don’t make none.

Edgar unbuttoned his shirt and eyed her warily. Her hair was growing back. Did he forget something? Was she on—of course.

Ah, he said, knowingly.

Ah, what? Felicia said.

Ah, you’re having your—he circled a finger where her uterus would be—your time.

She washed a tomato and began slicing it thinly.

Edgar stepped close behind her. She elbowed him back.

Hard day playing dress-up? he asked.

She turned and pointed the knife toward him.

I want to know how you could go to work or Calgary or wherever the hell you go

Felicia, there’s no woman in Calgary or Moscow or the moon.

And come back here like you is Mr. Innocent? How you could look me in the face every day since my mother, bless her soul, and your mother was in hospital, and lie—

No one’s lying.

And lie straight to my face. What kind of man—I go tell you is only a dutty, treacherous, old man—have the gall to be so boldface as to take advantage of a girl when she at her most, her most, her most vulnerable condition, to deceive she right to she face, when he know, he know, everything that girl suffer in this country.

What on earth are you—

When that girl take she hand and clean up he mother vomit when no nurse was coming, and leave she education to wipe this woman bottom, what kind of man could turn around and lie to this girl—don’t look at me—

Edgar looked down.

Lie to me to get your way, like all them common, low-class men with no principle? She stopped there.

Click.

Are you—?

You tell me, Edgar. You tell me.

#

Priority number 1: Get the knife out of Felicia’s hands without asking for it. Priority 2: Get this baby nonsense out of Felicia’s head.

On the plus side, she seemed spacey and unaware that she was holding a knife. On the minus, she seemed spacey and unaware that she was holding a knife.

Edgar began with an assault of facts and ended with the semblance of an argument: you’re not a doctor, you’re late, your hormones are doing that woman thing, ergo Latin Latin Latin.

I know how I feel.

Edgar opened his hand and beckoned for the knife. Unless you know what it’s like to feel pregnant, no, Felicia, I don’t think you know how you feel.

I want you to explain to me how I could be—

No one had said the word yet.

You can’t be, Edgar said.

I can’t be?

No, you can’t be. You’re not.

I’m not, eh? Tell me why I am not.

Because I—

If you going to keep on lying, help me God, I go cut your throat right now. I didn’t lie, Edgar said. She was aware of the knife now and Edgar stepped backward to the fridge. He could always swing open the door if she lunged. He never imagined himself as a news story where the neighbours attest that he was quiet, kept to himself, took care of his mother over footage of a bodybag emerging from the house, but Edgar conceived his bloody death now. So to speak. It was Felicia, after all, who told him the story of the three beheaded girls. Her people killed each other as punctuation.

So, what, I is the Virgin Mary? I have fruit in my womb?

I said I thought about having a vasectomy—put down the knife, Felicia—meaning I didn’t want children, he continued, meaning that precautions should be taken.

By who?

By who do you think? Whose body is it?

So this is my fault, Edgar? This is my fault? You gone and defend yourself by throwing this back on me.

How could you not read between the lines?

Because I schupid. She clamped her head. Because I real doltish. Because from day one in this country I was a damn fool.

Edgar saw his opportunity. He darted and grabbed her wrist. They struggled with the knife. He needed to immobilize her entire arm.

That’s not what I’m saying.

Then you is a lecherous, treacherous, nasty old man. She wouldn’t surrender the knife. Which is it? Tell me, nah.

Edgar had her by the wrist. She crouched, turned her back to him, as if defending a basketball and they travelled from the kitchen down the hallway. When she tried to turn on him, he lifted her up by the waist, her knife-arm flailing, and threw her into the garage and shut the door.

#

Time passed.

Edgar lit another cigarette and turned on the radio.

Felicia banged on the back door. She was howling epithets and threats and comments on Edgar’s moral character and manhood and he was shouting back through the door.

Tell me how, was the last thing she said.

Because you’re stewpid, Felicia. He drew out the u. You’re a stewpid minx.

Well, now you talking the truth, she said. You finally talking some sense. I real stewpid.

He paused his pacing at the front door to discipline her with paternal authority. I was perfectly clear with you from day one, Felicia—no children.

You does lie too much.

No children and you knew that marriage was out of the question, which is not to say that I can’t commit. I can. I have. I am. Very committable. But you can’t corner a man—

I corner you?

Into doing what you want. It’s barbaric. You don’t go and manipulate a man because you want a child.

When Felicia began talking again, he strolled to the other end of the hallway, talking to himself, more or less along the same lines. He stopped at the far end of the hallway in front of the parlour bedroom. The weather was bad on Mutter’s forehead.

We’re going to send her to die Alpen, he said. Hysterical. This better not be your child. There’s no child. I’m married. Hh. Mutter coughed. You call that a marriage? Mutter said, although she couldn’t or didn’t talk anymore.

#

The garage was having the desired effect. It was supposed to be a padded room until Felicia stopped acting like the girl from “The Exorcist.” But the garage wasn’t padded. In fact, it had many breakable things.

After a few minutes of quiet, Felicia slapped the door, an open-palmed sound. Edgar crept down the hall and placed his ear against the door.

Silence.

I hope you listening, she said. Listen real good to me.

Then Edgar heard a crunch, followed by drumming of various depths and resonances.

He didn’t even put on his shoes.

He found Felicia standing on the hood of his Passat, which was still dripping from the airport, about to plant a shovel into his windshield. She had upgraded the knife. He tackled her by the thighs. She scrambled inside the house and tried to lock him out but he shouldered the door open. She stumbled back. Her heel caught the edge of his suitcase and she fell.

He wanted to pick her up and strike her. He wanted to strike her across the face with all of his strength with the back of his hand, bending it so that the middle knuckle would connect just under her cheek and her head would rotate in slow motion, groan out a deep word in slow sound, flecks of spit in slow motion in the light, until she fell unconscious to the floor.

Instead he knelt and straddled her hips and pinned her shoulders to the runner.

You think I playing with you, she was saying. You think my life is some kind of joke. I bring something to your attention and you not even man enough to act like a man. If she wanted to be pregnant, he could make her pregnant right now. He tried to undo his belt but he couldn’t spare the hand. She was a single muscle, slippery fish. He couldn’t get hard either. But he had to do something.

So he opened his mouth and let one string of spit fall slowly from his lips toward her mouth.

 

 

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