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Authors: Rick Moody

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The Four Fingers of Death (117 page)

BOOK: The Four Fingers of Death
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Hey, kid,
The exam’s tomorrow,
And you have to pass.
Then from the middle place of consciousness, Tara awoke! At least her eyelashes fluttered. In the past, she had always taken a certain care with her eyelashes. There was always some capacious amount of eyeliner and mascara bound to run at the first sign of emotion. So it was appropriate that her eyelashes fluttered, and I reached over with my free hand and wiped away a little of the moisture that accumulated under the oxygen mask and cascaded down her neck. She mumbled something, and I asked her to repeat herself.
“Where we going?” she slurred.
“The foothills,” I said.
“Oh, nice,” she said. “Why?”
“Don’t you want to see the lights of the city?” I said.
“Always,” said she, summoning the word from a long silence.
And we went out Tanque Verde, that strange impulsive avenue that will not succumb to the grid, and I exceeded the posted limits, because if ever there was an emergency, this was an emergency, the emergency of aesthetics, because if a dying woman needed to see what was beautiful, one of the few things that man had brought to the desert that was indisputably beautiful, then we would exceed posted limits if we needed to, and there was no constabulary presence up here anyway, because they were all on the South Side, looking the other way while the gangbangers heisted another jet pack, and so there was nothing here, excepting a few rich people who were unwise enough to be out walking their dogs, now that the heat was beginning to give, and we passed these dog walkers at something approaching the supersonic, and it’s surprising that Tyrone’s car didn’t lift off, but it just wasn’t that kind of a car; yes, there was something eternal about being a middle-aged man driving his one true love up into the foothills, espousing the cause of beauty, until, just as the mountains were turning the color of fortified wine, we pulled into a dusty, neglected turnaround, facing in the direction from which we had come, and I said, “Here it is. Like so many other places, it looks great at a distance, huh?”
I could hear her breathing, or at least I thought I could hear her breathing. I could hear something breathing. A machine, perhaps. Or Tara and a machine, the one indistinguishable from the other. She didn’t say anything. There was the desert wind too. Have I described it? Because in autumn, after the monsoons have come through, the weather is changeable, and a big wind can come up, and there is that longing of autumn, when all things are charged with the waning of promise.
Don’t let this be the last moment
, I said to her,
the last moment that we share
.
She would not wake up.
And she never did say another thing to me, and if one wanted to read a lot into a person’s last words or in this case last
word
, the word
always
is a pretty good word. You can argue, if you want, that our love was not for the ages, since I was a not very good writer, and boorish in some ways, and Tara was a young woman who didn’t have a chance in the world, really, unless her chance was to die ahead of schedule, and much of our relationship we were mainly hooked up to various devices, or at least Tara was, but we were
always
something, we were
always
trying,
always
fucking up,
always
regretting,
always
laughing,
always
in debt,
always
looking for another place to live,
always
there,
always
elsewhere,
always
giving up,
always
complaining,
always
celebrating,
always
jumping for joy,
always
forgetting,
always
saying
never again
, and so
always
was a very fine word, if you wanted to leave on a memorable high note, and I will
always
remember that word
always
, more than I will remember, for example, taking her unconscious to the hospital and then watching a lot of heroic measures, the very involved dance steps that are the heroic measures. Tara died anyway, which is what she was going to do, and what she told me she was going to do, and I guess I always knew it.
Of the time after that, I don’t have anything much to say. I won the chess game, and I began writing these pages.
Acknowledgments
I
’M INDEBTED
to my friends and loved ones in the Southwest: Casa Libre en la Solana, in Tucson, and its director, Kristen Nelson; Melissa Pritchard; Lydia Millet; Aurelie Sheehan; Stacey Richter; Dan Coleman; Jim Weston; Susan Lang; Rodney Phillips; and especially Laura Van Etten.
I’m indebted to Yaddo, where I wrote the last sentence.
I’m also indebted to the following for believing in me and the project: Melanie Jackson; Deborah Rogers; Matthew Snyder; Pat Strachan; Michael Pietsch; Betsy Uhrig; Heather Fain; Heather Rizzo; Alison Granucci; Jennifer Alise Drew; Carl Newman; Susanna Sonnenberg; Regan Good; my wife, Amy Osborn; my daughter, Hazel Jane (who arrived just in time to believe that my job is entirely dependent on red pencils); my brother, Dwight Moody; my parents; my nieces and nephews.
About the Author
R
ICK
M
OODY
is the author of the novels
Garden State
,
The Ice Storm
,
Purple America
, and
The Diviners;
two collections of stories,
The Ring of Brightest Angels Around Heaven
and
Demonology;
a collection of novellas,
Right Livelihoods;
and a memoir,
The Black Veil
, winner of the PEN / Martha Albrand Award. Moody has also received the Addison Metcalf Award, the
Paris Review
’s Aga Khan Prize, and a Guggenheim Fellowship. He lives with his family in Brooklyn, New York.
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