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The Fifty Year Sword

Mark Z. Danielewski
Querido, Amsterdam,




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the ledge - flash version*

*
English

THE FIFTY YEAR SWORD — MARK Z. DANIELEWSKI

“ Chintana shook and sighed
and reconsiderated her twin’s
counsel.
“ Maybe some things
aren’t worth the risk.
“ And then along
came the little ones.
“ And that sure put
a change in her.
“ After all what did they
“ know about risk?
“ Or care for that matter?
“ They
“ were too young. Their play,
“ the privacy of that
pratical mayhem and racket,
“ protected them.
Zigzagging this way, there
“ way, dashdown diversion
fast across a dining room,
“ eastern cottontails!
“ sweet baby bobwhites!
“ down some stairs
spinning sideways, socks
slipping them up some
“ on the smoothgrooved floors,
“ but those small hands
always grabbing fast enough,
“ opossum grip for a corner!
“ just in time to catch the slide
and swing them in a celerating
arc towards another warped hall.
1.

 
THE FIFTY YEAR SWORD — MARK Z. DANIELEWSKI


“ And sure, sure come spring
the wraparound porch outside
with its gape at the sweet gum,
“ loblolly pine
“ and maple, could serve their turns,
“ preniscent turns,
“ but tonight
“ with a wind already
whipping up something wrong,
“ the dogs howling
in their kennels,
“ five such
“ orphans confined their
tie-die hues to the shadows of adult
conversation and back rooms
“ steeped in abandonment.
“ Theirs was abandonment’s
insurrection.
“ The coop de grass of feral play.















“ Chintana rubbed the violet
line on her thumb as a woman with
topaz clamped on her ears burst
past her towards a small bathroom
tucked under the main stairs.
“ ‘ Such a hateful whore,’
the woman sputstuttersobbed
to Chintana,
“ to no one in particular,
“ diving for the comforts of
lock and running water.
“ Whereupon Chintana’s thumb
abruptly began to sore a little
“ and she felt bleak,
“ as if a thousand
“ vengeances upon vengeances
were dicing her suddenly
“ into hail.
2.

 
THE FIFTY YEAR SWORD — MARK Z. DANIELEWSKI


“ Though the cause was
none too mysterous
“ -- the front door just
stood wide open.
“ Though when it had been flung so
Chintana would never remember.
“ The porch lights were extinguished
too, oddly,
“ and what’s more a shadow
now cut across the threshold,
“ though without moon
or stars in the Texas sky this
was an awful impossibility,
“ for here reaching
towards her it seemed was a
shadow cast by nothing
“ other
“ than the darkness itself.
“ Most would’ve denied
the sight with a turn,
“ a cry,
“ flight,
“ but maybe because Chintana
too, day out and night in, could so
easily consider doing the same,
“ --what would leave these
rooms drenched in silence,
“ and blood --,
“ she welcomed him.

“ ‘ The orphans’
“ was all he said.
“ And Chintana
showed him the way.
3.

 
THE FIFTY YEAR SWORD — MARK Z. DANIELEWSKI



“ At first the five
“ orphans,
“ five jittery swamp rabbits
“ five knowsomebetter gophers,
“ recoiled at the sight of
“ the Story
“ Teller.
“ It didn’t help that the
library had not suited his tastes, so his
hulking form,
“ bent and growling,
“ had led them up a tightwind
of back stairs into a small
parlor already dimly lit with
“ five season-poured
candles of ginger,
“ cinnamon,
“ nutmeg,
“ cloves
“ and molasses clustered in
an uneven arc away from five
dark windows, all tightly closed.
“ (Surely Mose’s work.)
“ Only when he finally sat
down on the floor did the
orphans seem to relax,
“ --
“ enchanted quick enough by
the manner of his diminishiding,
“ so crossing his legs,
folding himself into himself,
“ refolding, until right before
their eyes he no longer seemed
“ hrowling or gulking
but sat quietstill,
“ overdraped in his
strange silveryblack tunic,
his head heavily bowed.
4.

 
THE FIFTY YEAR SWORD — MARK Z. DANIELEWSKI


“ Following this example
Tarff, Ezade, Iniedia, Sithiss
and Micit sat down too,
“ crossing their legs, and if not
“ exatecly little
“ and bushy-bluestem cozy
“ then armadillo tight,
“ wanting now only to
know what was inside.
“ As for the Social
Worker, with her burden
of watchful-responsibility
momenterarily suspended,
“ she took her place in a
back corner lounge chair and
stretching out her legs yawned.
“ Chintana as well succumbed
to her own shadows and seat,
“ trying idly to figure out
“ this figure’s peculiar origins,
“ the narrow eyes or
sharp squeezed brows,
“ the profoundly wide forehead,
or the dark lips
rounding out into the deeper
creases of his cheek,
“ all mute and formless but somehow
adding up to something Chintana knew
only as
“ -- awfully.
“ Or perhaps it wasn’t him at all but
another question of origin --
“ the box he carried.
5.

 
THE FIFTY YEAR SWORD — MARK Z. DANIELEWSKI


“ A narrow thing with
angles of black,
“ six feet long, easy, with
an ochre sash for a handle
above the odd engraving --
“ T50YS
“ The four hinges faced in
towards him. The five metal latches faced
out towards the orphans.
“ The number of latches
confused her and warned her
“ but Chintana didn’t know
what to do with warnings anymore.

“ What I have to tell you,’
“ he began slowly,
“ ‘ I must show you. But
what I show you I must also
tell you. I have only myself and
where I’ve been and what I
found and what I now bring.
“ ‘ And it will frighten you.’
6.


     
The Ledge
editor-in-chief: Stacey Knecht, info@the-ledge.com
Thanks to: De digitale pioniers and
Het Prins Bernhard Cultuurfonds
Design: Maurits de Bruijn

Copyright: Pieter Steinz, Stacey Knecht
All rights reserved. No part of this work may be reproduced in any form or by any electronic or mechanical means, including information storage and retrieval systems, without permission in writing from the author.