by Donald Barthelme
be found in The Best American Short Stories 1980 by Elkin and
Sixty Stories by Barthelme
*For private use and reading pleasure only, for people over the age of 17. This story does contain some vivid language and graphic details. This story does not reflect nor endorse my personal views and should be taken in a humorous fashion*
*Also note that this is reproduced with all original spellings, capitalization, and punctuation*
(my favorite parts are in orange)
Hey buddy what’s your name?
My name is Tope. What’s your name?
My name is Sallywag. You after the emerald?
Yeah I’m after the emerald you after the emerald too?
I am. What are you going to do with it if you get it?
Cut it up into little emeralds. What are you going to do with it?
I was thinking of solid emerald armchairs. For the rich.
That’s an idea. What’s your name, you?
You after the emerald?
Sure as shootin’.
How you going to get in?
Blast. That’s going to make a lot of noise isn’t it?
You think it’s a bad idea?
Well…What’s your name, you there?
You after the emerald?
Right as rain. What’s more, I got a plan.
Can we see it?
No it’s my plan I can’t be showing it to every—
Okay okay. What’s that guy’s name behind you?
My name is Sometimes.
You here about the emerald, Sometimes?
I surely am.
Have you got an approach?
Tunneling. I’ve took some test borings. Looks like a stone cinch.
If this is the right place.
You think this may not be the right place?
The last three places haven’t been the right place.
You tryin’ to bring me down?
Why would I want to do that? What’s that guy’s name, the one with the shades?
My name is Brother. Who are all these people?
Businessmen. What do you think of the general situation, Brother?
I think it’s crowded. This is my pal, Wednesday.
What say, Wednesday. After the emerald, I presume?
Thought we’d have a go.
Two heads better than one, that the idea?
What are you going to do with the emerald, if you get it?
Facet. Facet and facet and facet.
Moll talking to a member of the
Tell me, as a member of the news media, what do you do?
Well we sort of figure out what the news is, then we go out and talk to people, the newsmakers, those who have made the news—
These having been identified by certain people very high up in your organization.
The editors. The editors are the ones who say this is news, this is not news, maybe there is news, damned if I know whether this is news or not—
And then you go out and talk to people and they tell you everything.
They tell you a surprising number of things, if you are a member of the news media. Even if they have something to hide, questionable behavior or one thing and another, or having killed their wife, that sort of thing, still they tell you the most amazing things. Generally.
About themselves. The newsworthy.
Yes. Then we have our experts in the various fields. They are experts in who is a smart cookie and who is a dumb cookie. They write pieces saying which kind of cookie these various cookies are, so that the reader can make informed choices. About things.
Fascinating work I should think.
Your basic glamour job.
I suppose you would have to be very well-educated to get that kind of job.
Extremely well-educated. Typing, everything.
Yes. Well, back to the pregnancy. You say it was a seven-year pregnancy.
Yes. When the agency was made clear to me—
The agency was, you contend, extraterrestrial.
It's a fact. Some people can't handle it.
The father was—
He sat in that chair you're sitting in. The red chair. Naked and wearing a morion.
Yes he sat naked in the chair wearing only a morion, and engaged me in conversation.
The burden of which was—
What was your reaction?
I was surprised. My reaction was surprise.
Did you declare your unworthiness?
Several times. He was unmoved.
Well I don't know, all this sounds a little unreal, like I mean unreal, if you know what I mean.
Oui, je sais.
What role were you playing?
Well obviously I was playing myself. Mad Moll.
What's a morion?
Steel helmet with a crest.
You considered his offer.
More in the nature of a command.
Then, the impregnation. He approached your white or pink as yet undistended belly with his hideously engorged member–
It was more fun than that.
I find it hard to believe, if you'll forgive me, that you, although quite beautiful in your own way, quite lush of figure and fair of face, still the beard on your chin and that black mark like a furry caterpillar crawling in the middle of your forehead–
It's only a small beard after all.
And he seemed to like the black mark on my forehead. He caressed it.
So you did in fact enjoy the...event. You understand I wouldn't ask these questions, some of which I admit verge on the personal, were I not a duly credentialed member of the press. Custodian as it were of the public's right to know. Everything. Every last little slippy-dippy thing.
Well okay yes I guess that's true strictly speaking. I suppose that's true. Strictly speaking. I could I suppose tell you to buzz off but I respect the public's right to know. I think. An informed public is, I suppose, one of the basic bulwarks of–
Yes I agree but of course I would wouldn't I, being I mean in my professional capacity my professional role–
Yes I see what you mean.
But of course I exist aside from that role, as a person I mean, as a woman like you–
You're not like me.
Well no in the sense that I'm not a witch.
You must forgive me if I insist on this point. You're not like me.
Well, yes, I don't disagree, I'm not arguing. I have not after all produced a pregnancy of seven years a gigantic emerald weighing seven thousand and thirty-five carats–Can I, could I, by the way, see the emerald?
No not right now it's sleeping.
The emerald is sleeping?
Yes it's sleeping right now. It sleeps.
Yes didn't you hear me it's sleeping right now it sleeps just like any other–
What do you mean the emerald is sleeping?
Just what I said. It's asleep.
Do you talk to it?
Of course, sure I talk to it, it's mine, I mean I gave birth to it, I cuddle it and polish it and talk to it, what's so strange about that?
Does it talk to you?
Well I mean it's only one month old. How could it talk?
Is this Mad Moll?
Yes this is Mad Moll who are you?
You the one who advertised for somebody to stand outside the door and knock down anybody tries to come in?
Yes that's me are you applying for the position?
Yes I think so what does it pay?
Two hundred a week and found.
Well that sounds pretty good but tell me lady who is it I have to knock down for example?
Various parties. Some of them not yet known to me. I mean I have an inkling but no more than that. Are you big?
How many pounds?
What's your best move?
I got a pretty good shove. A not-bad bust in the mouth. I can trip. I can fall on 'em. I can gouge. I have a good sense of where the ears are. I know thumbs and kneecaps.
Where did you get your training?
Just around. High school, mostly.
What's your name?
That's not a very tough name if you'll forgive me.
You want to change it? I've been called different things in different places.
No I don't want you to change it. It's all right. It'll do.
Okay do you want to see me or do I have the job?
You sound okay to me Soapbox. You ca start tomorrow.
Understand, ye sons of the wise, what this exceedingly precious Stone crieth out to you! Seven years, close to tears. Slept for the first two, dreaming under four blankets, black, blue, brown, brown. Slept and pissed, when I wasn't dreaming I was pissing, I was a fountain. After the first year I knew something irregular was in progress, but not what. I thought, moonstrous! Salivated like a mad dog, four quarts or more a day, when I wasn't pissing I was spitting. Chawed moose steak, moose steak and morels, and fluttered with new men–the butcher, baker, candlestick maker, especially the butcher, one Shatterhand, he was neat. Gobbled a lot of iron, liver and rust from the bottoms of boats, I had serial nosebleeds every day of the seventeenth trimester. Mood swings of course, heigh-de-ho, instances of false labor in years six and seven, palpating the abdominal wall I felt edges and thought, edges? Then on a cold February night the denouement, at six sixty-six in the evening, or a bit past seven, they sent a Miss Leek to do the delivery, one of us but not the famous one, she gave me scopolamine and a little swan-sweat, that helped, she turned not a hair when the emerald presented itself but placed it in my arms with a kiss or two and a pat or two and drove away, in a coach pulled by a golden pig.
Vandermaster has the Foot.
The Foot is very threatening to you.
He is a mage and goes around accompanied by a black bloodhound.
Yes. Tarbut. Said to have been raised on human milk.
Could you give me a little more about the Foot. Who owns it?
Monks. Some monks in a monastery in Merano or outside of Merano. That's in Italy. It's their Foot.
How did Vandermaster get it?
Do you by any chance know what order that is?
Let me see if I can remember–Cathusian.
Can you spell that for me?
C-a-r-t-h-u-s-i-a-n. I think.
Thank you. How did Vandermaster get into the monastery?
They hold retreats, you know, for pious laymen or people who just want to come to the monastery and think about their sins or be edified, for a week or a few days...
Can you describe the Foot? Physically?
The Foot proper is encased in silver. It's about the size of a foot, maybe slightly larger. It's cut off just above the ankle. The toe part is rather flat, it's as if people in those days had very flat toes. The whole is quite graceful. The Foot proper sits on top of this rather elaborate base, three levels, gold, little claw feet...
And you are convinced that this, uh, reliquary contains the true Foot of Mary Magdalene.
Mary Magdalene's Foot. Yes.
He's threatening you with it.
It has a history of being used against witches, throughout history, to kill them or mar them–
He wants the emerald.
My emerald. Yes.
You won't reveal its parentage. Who the father was.
Oh well hell. It was the man in the moon. Deus Lunus.
The man in the moon ha-ha.
No I mean it, it was the man in the moon. Deus Lunus as he's called, the moon god. Deus Lunus. Him.
You mean you want me to believe–
Look woman I don't give dandelions what you believe you asked me who the father was. I told you. I don't give a zipper whether you believe me or don't believe me.
You're actually asking me to–
Sat in that chair, that chair right there. The red chair.
Oh for heaven's sake all right that's it I'm going to blow this pop stand I know I'm just a dumb ignorant media person but if you think for one minute that...I respect your uh conviction but this has got to be a delusionary belief. The man in the moon. A delusionary belief.
Well I agree it sounds funny but there it is. Where else would I get an emerald that big, seven thousand and thirty-five carats? A poor woman like me?
Maybe it's not a real emerald?
If it's not a real emerald why is Vandermaster after me?
You going to the hog wrassle?
No I'm after the emerald.
What's your name?
My name is Cold Cuts. What's that machine?
That's an emerald cutter.
How's it work?
Laser beam. You after the emerald too?
Yes I am.
What's your name?
My name is Pro Tem.
That a dowsing rod you got there?
No it's a giant wishbone.
Looks like a dowsing rod.
Well it dowses like a dowsing rod but you also get the wish.
Oh. What's his name?
His name is Plug.
Can't he speak for himself?
He's deaf and dumb.
After the emerald?
Yes. He has special skills.
What are they?
He knows how to diddle certain systems.
Playing it close to the best is that it?
Who's that guy there?
I don't know, all I know about him is he's from Antwerp.
The Emerald Exchange?
That's what I think.
What are all those little envelopes he's holding?
Soapbox, look here.
What's your name, man?
My name is Dietrich von Dietersdorf.
I don't believe it.
You don't believe my name is my name?
Pretty fancy name for such a pissant-looking fellow as you.
I will not be balked. Look here.
What you got?
Silver thalers, my friend, thalers big as onion rings.
That's money, right?
What do I have to do?
Fall asleep at my post here in front of the door?
Right. Will you do it?
I could. But should I?
Where does this "should" come from?
My mind. I have a mind, stewing and sizzling.
Well deal with it, man, deal with it. Will you do it?
Will I? Will I? I don't know!
Where is my
daddy? asked the emerald. My da?
Moll dropped a glass, which shattered.
Yes, said the emerald, amn't I supposed to have one?
He's not here.
Noticed that, said the emerald.
I'm never sure what you know and what you don't know.
I ask in true perplexity.
He was Deus Lunus. The moon god. Sometimes thought of as the man in the moon.
Bosh! said the emerald. I don't believe it.
Do you believe I'm your mother?
Do you believe you're an emerald?
I am an emerald.
Used to be, said Moll, women wouldn't drink from a glass into which the moon had shone. For fear of getting knocked up.
Surely this is superstition?
Hoo, hoo, said Moll. I like superstition.
I thought the moon was female.
Don't be culture-bound. It's been female in some cultures at some times, and in others, not.
What did it feel like? The experience?
Not a proper subject for discussion with a child.
The emerald sulking. Green looks here and there.
Well it wasn't the worst. I had an orgasm that lasted for three hours. I judge that not the worst.
What's an orgasm?
Feeling that shoots through one's electrical system giving you little jolts, spam spam, many little jolts, spam spam spam spam...
Teach me something, mother of mine, about this gray world of yours.
What have I to teach? The odd pitiful spell. Most of them won't even put a shine on a pair of shoes.
Teach me one.
"To achieve your heart's desire, burn in water, wash in fire."
What does that do?
French-fries. Anything you want French-fried.
I have buggered up your tranquility.
No no no no no.
I'm valuable, said the emerald. I am a thing of value. Over and above my personhood, if I may use the term.
You are a thing of value. A value extrinsic to what I value.
Equivalent I would say to a third of a sea.
Is that much?
People want to cut me up and put little chips of me into rings and bangles.
Yes. I'm sorry to say.
Vandermaster is not of this ilk.
Vandermaster is an ilk unto himself.
The more threatening for so being.
What are you going to do?
Make me some money. Whatever else is afoot, this delight is constant.
Molljourney the Molltrip into the ferocious Out with a wire shopping cart what's
that sucker there doing? tips his hat bends his middle shuffles his feet
why he's doing courtly not seen courtly for many a month he does a quite decent
courtly I'll smile, briefly, out of my way there citizen sirens shrieking on
this swarm summer's day here an idiot there an idiot that one's eyeing me eyed
me on the corner and eyed me round the corner as the Mad Moll song has it and
that one standing with his cheek crushed against the warehouse wall and that one
browsing in a trash basket and that one picking that one's pocket and that one
with the gotch eye and his hands on his I'll twoad 'ee bastard I'll–
Hey there woman come and stand beside me.
Buzz off buster I'm on the King's business and have no time to trifle.
You don't even want to stop a moment and look at this thing I have here?
What sort of thing is it?
Oh it's a rare thing, a beautiful thing, a jim-dandy of a thing, a thing any woman would give her eyeteeth to look upon.
Well yes okay but what is it?
Well I can't tell you. I have to show you. Come stand over here in the entrance to this dark alley.
Naw man I'm not gonna go into no alley with you what do you think I am a nitwit?
I think you're a beautiful woman even if you do have that bit of beard there on your chin like a piece of burnt toast or something, most becoming. And that mark like a dead insect on your forehead gives you a certain–
Cut the crap daddy and show me what you got. Standing right here. Else I'm on my way.
No it's too rich and strange for the full light of day we have to have some shadow, it's too–
If this turns out to be an ordinary–
No no no nothing like that. You mean you think I might be a what-do-you-call-'em, one of those guys who–
Your discourse sir strongly suggests it.
And your name?
Moll. Mad Moll. Sometimes Moll the Poor Girl.
Beautiful name. Your mother's name or the name of some favorite auntie?
Moll totals him with a bang in the calls.
Jesus Christ these creeps what can you do?
She stops at a store and buys a can of gem polish.
Polish my emerald so bloody bright it will bloody blind you.
Sitting on the street with a basket of dirty faces for sale. The dirty faces are all colors, white black yellow tan rose-red.
Buy a dirty face! Slap it on your wife! But a dirty face! Complicate your life!
But no one buys.
A boy appears pushing a busted bicycle.
Hey lady what are those things there they look like faces.
That's what they are, faces.
Lady, Halloween is not until–
Okay kid move along you don't want to buy a face move along.
But those are actually faces lady Christ I mean they're actual faces–
Fourteen ninety-five kid you got any money on you?
I don't even want to touch one, look like they came off dead people.
Would you feel better if I said they were plastic?
Well I hope to God they're not–
Okay they're plastic. What's the matter with your bike?
Give it here.
The boy hands over the bicycle chain.
Moll puts the broken ends in her mouth and chews for a moment.
Okay here you go.
The boy takes it in his hands and yanks on it. It's fixed.
Shit how'd you do that, lady?
Moll spits and wipes her mouth on her sleeve.
Run along now kid beat it I'm tired of you.
Are you magic, lady?
Moll at home playing her oboe.
I love the oboe. The sound of the oboe.
The noble, noble oboe!
Of course it's not to every taste. Not everyone swings with the oboe.
Whoops! Goddamn oboe let me take that again.
Not perhaps the premier instrument of the present age. What would that be? The bullhorn, no doubt.
Why did he interfere with me? Why?
Maybe has to do with the loneliness of the gods. Oh thou great one whom I adore beyond measure, oh thou bastard and fatherer of bastards–
Tucked-away gods whom nobody speaks to anymore. Once so lively.
Polish my emerald so bloody bright it will bloody blind you.
Good God what's that?
Vandermaster used the Foot!
Oh my God look at that hole!
It's awful and tremendous!
What in the name of God?
Vandermaster used the Foot!
The Foot did that? I don't believe it!
You don't believe it? What's your name?
My name is Coddle. I don't believe the Foot could have done that. I one hundred percent don't believe it.
Well it's right there in front of your eyes. Do you think Moll and the emerald are safe?
The house seems structurally sound. Smoke-blackened, but sound.
What happened to Soapbox?
You mean Soapbox who was standing in front of the house poised to bop any mother's son who–
Good Lord Soapbox is nowhere to be seen!
He's not in the hole!
Let me see there. What's your name?
My name is Mixer. No, he's not in the hole. Not a shred of him in the hole.
Good, true Soapbox!
You think Moll is still inside? How do we know this is the right place after all?
Heard it on the radio. What's your name by the way?
My name is Ho Ho. Look at the ground smoking!
The whole thing is tremendous, demonstrating the awful power of the Foot!
I am shaking with awe right now! Poor Soapbox!
Noble, noble Soapbox!
You may be seated.
I thank you.
The red chair.
Thank you very much.
May I offer you some refreshment?
Yes I will have a splash of something thank you.
It's Scotch I believe.
And I will join you I think, as the week has been a most fatiguing one.
Care and cleaning I take it.
Yes, care and cleaning and in addition there was a media person here.
Yes it was tiresome in the extreme her persistence in her peculiar vocation is quite remarkable.
Wanted to know about the emerald I expect.
She was most curious about the emerald.
Yes disbelieving but perhaps that is an attribute of the profession?
So they say. Did she see it?
No it was sleeping and I did not wish to–
Of course. How did this person discover that you had as it were made yourself an object of interest to the larger public?
Indiscretion on the part of the midwitch I suppose, some people cannot maintain even minimal discretion.
Yes that's the damned thing about some people. Their discretion is out to lunch.
Blabbing things about would be an example.
Popping off to all and sundry about matters.
Ah well. Could we, do you think, proceed?
If we must.
I have the Foot.
You have the emerald.
The Foot has certain properties of special interest to witches.
So I have been told.
There is a distaste, a bad taste in the brain, when one is forced to put the boots to someone.
Must be terrible for you, terrible. Where is my man Soapbox by the way?
That thug you had in front of the door?
He is probably reintegrating himself with the basic matter of the universe, right now. Fascinating experience I should think.
Good to know.
I intend only the best for the emerald, however.
What is the best?
There are as you are aware others not so scrupulous in the field. Chislers, in every sense.
And you? What do you intend for it?
I have been thinking emerald dust. Emerald dust with soda, emerald dust with tomato juice, emerald dust with a dash of bitters, emerald dust with Ovaltine.
I beg your pardon?
I want to live twice.
In addition to my present life, I wish another, future life.
A second life. Incremental to the one you are presently enjoying.
As a boy, I was very poor. Poor as pine.
And you have discovered a formula.
Plucked from the arcanum.
Yes. Requires a certain amount of emerald. Powered emerald.
Carat's weight a day for seven thousand thirty-five days.
Not at all. Only this emerald will do. A moon's emerald born of human witch.
I have been thinking about bouillon. Emerald dust and bouillon with a little Tabasco.
My mother is eighty-one, said Vandermaster. I went to my mother and said, Mother, I want to be in love.
And she replied?
She said, me too.
Lily the media person standing in the hall.
I came back to see if you were ready to confess. The hoax.
It's talking now. It talks.
Lovely complete sentences. Maxisms and truisms.
I don't want to hear this. I absolutely–
Look kid this is going to cost you. Sixty dollars.
Sixty dollars for what?
For the interview.
That's checkbook journalism!
It's against the highest traditions of the profession!
You get paid, your boss gets paid, the stockholders get their slice, why not us members of the raw material? Why shouldn't the raw material get paid?
Most assuredly it talks.
Will you take a check?
If I must. You're really a witch.
How many times do I have to tell you?
You do tricks or anything?
Consulting, you might say.
You have clients? People who come to see you regularly on a regular basis?
People with problems, yes.
What kind of problems, for instance?
Some of them very simple, really, things that just need a specific, bit of womandrake for example–
Black bryony. Called the herb of beaten wives. Takes away black-and-blue marks.
You get beaten wives?
Stick a little of that number into the old man's pork and beans, he retches. For seven days and seven nights. It near to kills him.
I have a problem.
What's the problem?
The editor, or editor-king, as he's called around the shop.
What about him?
He takes my stuff and throws it on the floor. When he doesn't like it.
On the floor?
I know it's nothing to you but it hurts me. I cry. I know I shouldn't cry but I cry. When I see my stuff on the floor. Pages and pages of it, so carefully typed, every word spelled right–
Don't you kids have a union?
Yes but he won't speak to it.
That's this man Lather, right?
Mr. Lather. Editor-imperator.
Okay I'll look into it that'll be another sixty you want to pay now or you want to be billed?
I'll give you another check. Can Vandermaster live twice?
There are two theories, the General Theory and the Special Theory. I take it he is relying on the latter. Requires ingestion of a certain amount of emerald. Powered emerald.
Can you defend yourself?
I have a few things in mind. A few little things.
Can I see the emerald now?
You may. Come this way.
Thank you. Thank you at last. My that's impressive what's that?
That's the thumb of a thief. Enlarged thirty times. Bronze. I use it in my work.
Impressive if one believed in that sort of thing ha-ha I don't mean to–
What care I? What care I? In here. Little emerald, this is Lily. Lily, this is the emerald.
Enchante, said the emerald. What a pretty young woman you are!
This emerald is young, said Lily. Young, but good. I do not believe what I am seeing with my very eyes!
But perhaps that is a sepsis of the profession? said the emerald.
Vandermaster wants to live twice!
Oh, most foul, most foul!
He was very poor, as a boy! Poor as pine!
Hideous presumption! Cheeky hubris!
He wants to be in love! In love! Presumably with another person!
We'll have his buttons for dinner!
We'll clean the gutters with his hair!
What's your name, buddy?
My name is Tree and I'm smokin' mad!
My name is Bump and I'm just about ready to bust!
I think we should break out the naked-bladed pikes!
I think we should lay hand to torches and tar!
To live again! From the beginning! Ab ovo! This concept riles the very marrow of our minds!
We'll flake the white meat from his bones!
And that goes for his damned dog, too!
Hello is this Mad Moll?
Yes who is this?
My name is Lather. (please see this related link...)
Yes Mr. Lather what is the name of your publication I don't know that Lily ever–
World. I put it together. When World is various and beautiful, it's because I am various and beautiful. When World is sad and dreary, it's because I'm sad and dreary. When World is not they friend, it's because I am not thy friend. And if I am not thy friend, baby–
I get the drift.
Listen, Moll, I am not satisfied with what Lily's been giving me. She's not giving me potato chips. I have decided that I am going to handle this story personally, from now on.
She's been insufficiently insightful and comprehensive?
Gore, that's what we need, actual or psychological gore, and this twitter she's been filing–anyhow, I have sent her to Detroit.
She's going to be second night-relief paper clipper in the Detroit bureau. She's standing here right now with her bags packed and ashes in her hair and her ticket in her mouth.
Why in her mouth?
Because she needs her hands to red her garments with.
All right Mr. Lather send her back around. There is new bad news. Bad, bad, new bad news.
Moll hangs up the phone and weeps every tear she's capable of weeping, one, two, three.
Takes up a lump of clay, beats it flat with a Bible.
Let me see what do I have here?
I have Ya Ya Oil, that might do it.
I have Anger Oil, Lost & Away Oil, Confusion Oil, Weed of Misfortune, and War Water.
I have graveyard chips, salt, and coriander–enough coriander to freight a ship. Tasty coriander. Magical, magical coriander.
I'll eye-bite the son of a bitch. Have him in worm's hall by teatime.
Understand, ye sons of the wise, what this exceedingly precious Stone crieth out to you!
I'll fold that sucker's tent for him. If my stuff works. One never knows for sure, dammit. And where is Papa?
Throw in a little dwale now, a little orris...
Moll shapes the clay into the figure of a man.
So mote it be!
What happened was that they backed a big van up to the back door.
There were four of them or eight of them.
It was two in the morning or three in the morning or four in the morning–I'm not sure.
They were great big hairy men with cudgels and ropes and pads like movers have and a dolly and come-alongs made of barbed wire–that's a loop of barbed wire big enough to slip over somebody's head, with a handle–
They wrapped the emeralds in pads and placed it on the dolly and tied ropes around it and got it down the stairs through the door and into the van.
Did they use the Foot?
No they didn't use the Foot they had four witches with them.
The witches Aldrin, Endrin, Lindane, and Dieldrin. Bad-ass witches.
You knew them.
Only by repute. And Vandermaster was standing there with clouds of 1, 1, 2, 2-tetrachloroethylene seething from his nostrils.
Extremely. I was staggering around bumping into things, tried to hold on to the walls but the walls fell away from me and I fell after them trying to hold on.
These other witches, they do anything to you?
Kicked me in the ribs when I was on the floor. With their pointed shoes. I woke up emeraldless.
Right. Well I guess we'd better get the vast resources of our organization behind this. World. From sea to shining sea to shining sea. I'll alert all the bureaus in every direction.
What good will that do?
It will harry them. When a free press is on the case, you can't get away with anything really terrible.
But look at this.
What is it?
A solid silver louse. They left it.
What's it mean?
Means that the devil himself has taken an interest.
A free press, madam, is not afraid of the devil himself.
Who cares what's in a witch's head? Pretty pins for sticking pishtoshio
redthread for sewing names to shrouds gallant clankers I'll twoad 'ee and te
gollywobbles to give away and the trunkumtrankums to give away with a generous
hand pricksticks for the eye damned if I do and damned if I don't what's that
upon her forehead? said my father it's a mark said my mother black mark like a
furry caterpillar I'll scrub it away with Ajax and what's that upon her chin?
said my father it's a bit of beard said my mother I'll pluck it away with the
tweezers and what's that upon her mouth? said my father it must be a smirk said
my mother I'll wipe it away with the heel of my hand she's got here down there
already said my father is that natural? I'll shave it said my mother no
one will ever know and those said my father pointing those? just
what they look like said my mother I'll make a bandeau with this nice clean dish
towel she'll be flat as a jack of diamonds in no time and where's the belly
button? said my father flipping me about I don't see one anywhere must be coming
along later said my mother I'll just pencil one in here with the Magic Marker
this child is a bit of a mutt said my father recall to me if you will the
circumstances of her conception it was a dark and stormy night said my
mother...But who cares what's in a witch's head caskets of cankers shelves of
twoads for twoading paxwax scalpel polish people with scares sticking to their
faces memories of God who held me up and sustained me until I fell from His
hands into the world...
Twice? Twice? Twice? Twice?
I got it!
The Foot! I got it right here!
I thought you were blown up!
Naw I pretended to be bought so I was out of the way. Went with them back to their headquarters, or den. Then when they put the Foot back in the refridgerator I grabbed it and beat it back here.
They kept it in the refrigerator?
It needs a constant temperature or else it gets restless. It's hot-tempered. They said.
It's elegant. Weighs a ton though.
Be careful you might–
Soapbox, I am not totally without–it's warm to the hand.
Yes it is warm I noticed that, look what else I got.
What are those?
Thalers. Thalers big as onion rings. Forty-two grand worth.
What are you going to do with them?
It was wrong to want to live twice, said the emerald. If I may venture an
I was very poor, as a boy, said Vandermaster. Nothing to eat but gruel. It was gruel, gruel, gruel. I was fifteen before I ever saw an onion.
These are matters upon which I hesitate to pronounce, being a new thing in the world, said the emerald. A latecomer to the welter. But it seems to me that, having weltered, the wish to re-welter might be thought greedy.
Gruel today, gruel yesterday, gruel tomorrow. Sometimes gruel substitutes. I burn to recoup.
Something was said I believe about love.
The ghostfish of love has eluded me these forty-give years.
That Lily person if a pleasant person I think. And pretty too. Very pretty. Good-looking.
Yes she is.
I particularly like the way she is dedicated. She's extremely dedicated. Very dedicated. To her work.
Yes I do not disagree. Admirable. A free press is, I believe, an essential component of–
She is true-blue. Probably it would be great fun to talk to her and get to know her and kiss her and sleep with her and everything of that nature.
What are you suggesting?
Well, there's then, said the emerald, that is to say, your splendid second life.
And then there's now. Now is sooner than then.
You have a wonderfully clear head, said Vandermaster, for a rock.
Okay, said Lily. I want you to tap once for yes and twice for no. Do you understand that?
You are the true Foot of Mary
Vandermaster stole you from a monastery in Italy?
A Carthusian monastery in Merano or outside Merano?
Are you uncomfortable in that reliquary?
Have you killed any witches lately? In the last year or so?
Are you morally neutral or do you have opinions?
You have opinions?
In the conflict we are now witnessing between Moll and Vandermaster, which of the parties seem to you to have right and justice on her side?
Tap tap tap tap.
That mean Moll? One tap for each letter?
Is it warm in here?
So you have been, in a sense, an unwilling partner in Vandermaster's machinations.
And you would not be averse probably to using your considerable powers on Moll's behalf.
Do you know where Vandermaster is right now?
Have you any idea what his next move will be?
What is your opinion of the women's movement?
Tap tap tap tap tap tap tap tap tap tap tap tap tap tap.
I'm sorry I didn't get that. Do you have a favorite color what do you think of cosmetic surgery should children be allowed to watch television after ten P.M. how do you feel about aging is nuclear energy in your opinion a viable alternative to fossil fuels how do you deal with stress are you afraid to fly and do you have a chili recipe you'd care to share with the folks?
The first interview in the world with the true Foot of Mary Magdalene and no chili recipe!
Please be seated.
The red chair.
You're most kind.
Can I get you something, some iced tea or a little hit of Sanka?
A Ghost Dance is what I wouldn't mind if you can do it.
What's a Ghost Dance?
That's one part vodka to one part tequila with half an onion. Half a regular onion.
Wow wow wow wow wow.
Well when you're eighty-one, you know, there's not so much. Couple of Ghost Dances, I begin to take an interest.
I believe I can accommodate you.
Couple of Ghost Dances, I begin to look up and take notice.
Mrs. Vandermaster, you are aware are you not that your vile son has, with the aid of various parties, abducted my emerald? My own true emerald?
I mighta heard about it.
Well have you or haven't you?
'Course I don't pay much attention to that boy myself. He's bent.
Him and his dog. He goes off in a corner and talks to the dog. Looking over his shoulder to see if I'm listening. As if I'd care.
The dog doesn't–
Just listens. Intently.
Now I don't mind somebody who just addresses an occasional remark to the dog, like "Attaboy, dog", or something like that, or "Get the ball, dog", or something like that, but he confides in the dog. Bent.
You know what Vandermaster's profession is.
Yes, he's a mage. Think that's a little bent.
Is there anything you can do, or would do, to help me get my child back? My sweet emerald?
Well I don't have that much say-so.
I don't know too much about what-all he's up to. He comes and goes.
The thing is, he's bent.
You told me.
Wants to live twice.
I think it's a sin and shame.
And your poor little child.
A damned scandal.
I'd witch his eyes out if I were you.
The thought's appealing.
His eyes like onions...
A black bloodhound who looks as if he might have been fed on human milk.
Bloodhounding down the center of the street, nose to the ground.
You think this will work?
Soapbox, do you have a better idea?
Where did you find him?
I found him on the doorstep. Sitting there. In the moonlight.
In the moonlight?
Aureoled all around with moonglow.
You don't think that's significant?
Well I don't think it's happenstance.
What's his name?
There's something I have to tell you.
I went to the refrigerator for a beer?
The Foot's walked.
Dead! Kicked in the heart by the Foot!
Deep footprint right over the breastbone!
That's ghastly and awful!
After Lily turned him down he went after the emerald with a sledge!
Was the emerald hurt?
Chipped! The Foot got there in the nick!
She's gluing the chips back with grume!
And was the corpse claimed?
Three devils showed up! Lily's interviewing them right now!
A free press is not afraid of a thousand devils!
There are only three!
What did they look like?
Like Lather, the editor!
And the Foot?
Soapbox is taking it back to Italy! He's starting a security-guard business! Hired Sallywag, Wide Boy, Taptoe, and Sometimes!
What's your name by the way?
My name is Knucks. What's your name?
I'm Pebble. And the dog?
The dog's going to work for Soapbox too!
Curious, the dog showing up on Moll's doorstep that way!
Deus Lunus works in mysterious ways!
Deus Lunus never lets down a pal!
Well how 'bout a drink!
Don't mind if I do! What'll we drink to?
We'll drink to living once!
Hurrah for the here and now!
Tell me, said the emerald, what are diamonds like?
I know little of diamonds, said Moll.
Is a diamond better than an emerald?
Apples and oranges I would say.
Would you have preferred a diamond?
Diamond-hard, said the emerald, that's an expression I've encountered.
Diamonds are a little ordinary. Decent, yes. Quiet, yes. But gray. Give me step-cut zircons, square-cut spodumenes, jasper, sardonyx, bloodstones, Baltic amber, cursed opals, peridots of your own hue, the padparadscha sapphire, yellow chrysoberyls, the shifty tourmaline, cabchons...But best of all, an emerald.
But what is the meaning of the emerald? asked Lily. I mean overall? If you can say.
I have some notions, said Moll. You may credit them or not.
It means, one, that the gods are not yet done with us.
Gods not yet done with us.
The gods are still trafficking with us and making interventions of this kind and that kind and are not dormant or dead as has often been proclaimed by dummies.
Still trafficking. Not dead.
Just as in former times a demon might enter a nun on a piece of lettuce she was eating so even in these times a simple Mailgram might be the thin edge of the wedge.
Thin edge of the wedge.
Two, the world may congratulate itself that desire can still be raised in the dulled hearts of the citizens by the rumor of an emerald.
Desire or cupidity?
I do not distinguish qualitatively among the desires, we have referees for that, but he who covets not at all is a lump and I do not wish to have him to dinner.
Positive attitude toward desire.
Yes. Three, I do not know what this Stone portends, whether it portends for the better or portends for the worse or merely portends a bubbling of the in-between but you are in any case rescued from the sickliness of same and a small offering in the hat on the hall table would not be ill regarded.
And what now? said the emerald. What now, beautiful mother?
We resume the scrabble for existence, said Moll. We resume the scrabble for existence, in the sweet of the here and now.
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