I don't believe there's anything cosmic or divine or morally superior about whales and dolphins or sharks or trees, but I do think that everything that lives is holy and somehow integrated; and on cloudy days I suspect that these extraordinary phenomena, and the hundreds of tiny, modest versions no one hears about, are an ocean, an earth, a Creator, something shaking us by the collar, demanding our attention, our fear, our vigilance, our respect, our help.
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The whole underneath of Paris was an ant nest, Metro tunnels, sewer shafts, catacombs, mines, cemeteries. She'd been down in the city of bones where skulls and femurs rose in yellowing walls. Right down there, win the square before them. through a dinky little entrance, were the Roman ruins like honeycomb. The trains went under the river. There were tunnels people had forgotten about. It was a wonder Paris stood up at all. The bit you saw was only half of it. Her skin burned, thinking of it. The Hunchback knew. Up here in the tower of Notre Dame he saw how it was. Now and then, with the bells rattling his bones, he saw it like God saw it - inside, outside, above and under - just for a moment. The rest of the time he went back to hurting and waiting like Scully out there crying in the wind.
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She was still glad she looked like Scully. He wasn't pretty either, but pretty people weren't the kind you need. Pretty people saw themselves in the mirror and were either too happy or too sad. People like Billie just shrugged and didn't care. She didn't want to turn into anyone pretty. Anyway, she had scars now, you only had to look.
The pig winks and rolls in the bog. He kicks his legs up and his trotters clack together. The sun is low over the neighbourhood. There is the smell of oncoming night, of pollen settling, the sounds of kids fighting bath time. Lester comes down, waving his hands. Don't drown the pig, Fish. We're saving him for Christmas! We're gonna eat him. No! I'll drink to that, says the pig. Lester stands there. He looks at Fish. He looks at the porker. He peeps over the fence. The pig. The flamin' pig. The pig has just spoken. It's no language that he can understand, but there's no doubt. He feels a little crook, like maybe he should go over to that tree and puke. I like him, Lestah. He talks? Yep. Oh, my gawd. Lester looks at his retarded son again and once more at the pig. The pig talks. I likes him. Yeah, I bet. The pig snuffles, lets off a few syllables: aka sembon itwa. It's tongues, that's what it is. A blasted Pentecostal pig. And you understand him? Yep. I likes him. Always the miracles you don't need. It's not a simple world, Fish. It's not.
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Yet however comforting and peaceful beach-combing is, it ends up like the sea, as disturbing as it is reassuring. In dark moments I believe that walking on a beach at low tide is to be looking for death, or at least anticipating it. You will only find the dead, the spilled and the cast-off. Things torn free of their life or their place.
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It's terrifying to think you can remember things you shouldn't possibly be able to. It's like that childhood fear of having your soul slip from your body in your sleep. The darkness, those black sheets of glass sliding over you, upping the pressure, pushing you through the time and space and story.
Will you look at us by the river! The whole restless mob of us on spread blankets in the dreamy briny sunshine skylarking and chiacking about for one day, one clear, clean, sweet day in a good world in the midst of our living. Yachts run before an unfelt gust with bagnecked pelicans riding above them, the city their twitching backdrop, all blocks and points of mirror light down to the water's edge.
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