In a book tossed casually to the side
of where I lay sprawled half
out of bed, my hands dangling
like roots, is Buenos Aires, Argentina,
which always makes me think of gauchos
and thugs doing the tango on street-corners
in the night.
Skeletons, too, can be inhabited. Between its heavy columns of shining black bone, the Lambeosaurus is a fortress, a surrogate womb. Where have these bones been? What story would have been told living within them? The hot red and pink guts, with their green casings, once heaved in that empty barrel of air. Inside it was rank and there was impossible darkness. Plant matter sluiced through two stomachs, turned to a pulpy brown brine by weak acid and ground by pebbles the creature had swallowed. At first a book was produced and with the aid of a pocket flashlight an attempt was made at reading it. But Harold quickly found that the flashlight casing, though made of the strongest alloy, was no match for the continued gastrinal utterances of the host Lambeosaurus. Its joins eroded and the acids turned the batteries to paste. The book was by then only fragments, and it continued wasting until there was almost nothing left, a few characters that Harold preserved in the fold of his black nostrils. His fur was dingy and heavily matted and the comb of fine bone that Harold had carved from a false rib could not tame it. Harold prayed that the animal would be eaten. He grew tired of living in the miracle of its daily movements, watching beyond the stomach at the motion of the heavy thighs as they propelled the two through forest and grassland, travelling to the skull to observe the creature’s mind (far too small for so large a creature) mime the animal’s movements through its cringing firing of synapses. But if the creature were eaten then perhaps Harold would be similarly eaten, if not by the large predator that had taken it then by one of the low scroungers that would arrive immediately afterwards, those that had been waiting at the edge of the encounter to pounce on its carcass. Why had he ever wanted to inhabit the creature in the first place? He prayed for a rock to slide down the side of some shaley cliff and strike the creature in the head, for the creature to eat some poisoned fruit, for it to contract malaria from one of the gigantic mosquitos that no doubt made their homes in the world beyond the creature’s iron hide. But even these were not solutions because what if the rock came down in a hail of bullets that killed the creature, yes, but also buried it, or through some fluke struck and killed Harold as well? Or perhaps the poisoned fruit poisoned the very atmosphere he found himself living in, the malaria turning the creature’s cells a pale and sickly green that broke easily when touched, pussing sulphurous ooze that was no doubt as deadly as any scrounger’s razor teeth or claws? There was no question that Harold could not cut himself out (he had tried, but the moans of pain and convulsions from the sliced Lambeosaurus were too much for him) so he began to wish to be cut out in one stroke by someone else. But cut out by whom? Who could find him? It was the highest fantasy and in his mind it became adorned with all of fantasy’s trappings: trumpets, an angel in flowing garments bearing a gleaming bronze sword, a host of cherubim to wash his fur and comb him. It was somehow through the nursing of this impossibility that Harold became accustomed to living inside the Lambeosaurus and no longer wished to leave. The sluice of stomach juices, the rhythms of blood pumping in the web of veins that made his bed, became the background noise of his simple life. His calendar the flux of the Lambeosaur’s reproductions. Heavy with her clutch of eggs Harold pressed his hand against the thin sac that held them, counting the rims of their soft shells with his fingers. He felt the bulge of the hardened eggs forced down the final tube when she crouched to lay them. Every year her ovaries swelled in anticipation, days in advance sometimes, the sudden presence of their smooth white coolness welcome in the heated rank of her lower stomach. When the time was right she swept her mammoth tail to one side, raised her aft into the air, and let herself be mounted. He felt the weight of two massive forelimbs pressing as her mate lowered himself. Harold’s nose tingled from the change in pressure that came from the anticipation. His host’s blood grew thicker, somehow languid, and yet her heart beat faster. The insemination was completed by the swift kiss of the two animal’s cloaca. He (the partner) heaved off dipping her rear like he had clumsily dismounted a diving board and she swept her tail back into its resting position, and, it seemed to Harold, ran its sawtooth edge against her partner with affection. What happened with the children, and if any of them survived, Harold could not know. Eventually there came a time when the flesh inside her shortened and dried. She lingered walking as if she was waiting for someone and paused moments before rising in the morning. At irregular intervals her ovaries returned grey and swollen but no partner ever came to mount her, and eventually they stopped their swell altogether. Even with no food in them (and there was less and less in general) her stomachs worked hard just to keep themselves sulphurous and bubbling. One day she woke up well after Harold and stood turning and looking about her as if she was confused. Her brain was a twisted mess of ivy and thin chains of cartilage white like cobwebs grew over it. She bellowed and bellowed but nothing came to comfort her. Then she started moving. Her legs heaved determined at a speed she had never gone before and Harold could hear the pop and creak of her joints and ancient bones. For days she walked like this never tiring but her old stomachs had shrunk and were loudly groaning. Harold felt one tearing itself up and it was hot like cast iron and he had to pull his fingers away. The terrain was too much for her and her legs caught bushes and rocks and unlevel ground and she stumbled often and sometimes she fell. Eventually she could not get up again and she was stuck there bellowing until her voice gave, her thin heart pumping quickly and unevenly until she died. Harold waited in her stomach and listened to all of the final gurglings. The flesh settled hard like concrete and Harold could not move. In time it dried and he could hear her tissues snapping from the strain and then an odd vibration like the sound of a whirring motor. The sound grew louder and joined itself in buzzing stereo. A worm burst through the wall of flesh behind him, its faceless mouth dripping with mouldering muscle and fat. The stomach bloated also burst and the intestines and squirming on the wave of hot acids were many worms fat and lively. All of her body was rioting. With his fingers Harold pressed into her skin and pulled away red ceiling like cobwebs and more worms came spitting out to join the others. Harold worked at layer after layer finally coming to her ribs which he broke twisting them backwards and forwards until he could pull himself out.