March 13, 2013

Time and the Ferret Fancier

Time, still a cross, an irreconcilable liability; the single healthy moment chased by a starvation future and devoured by a voracious past. Paul Noble said time was only the skin of space, a necessity relative to the mind of man. That hard word relative: the height of a tree relative to the depth of the root and the strength of the storm.

Time like an everflowing stream . . . that pessimistic hymn that always made him see vividly the Annam and hear the curlews mewling, the melancholy air the cry of doomed prisoners in the dark; one of Rainey’s favorites because it could be dropped a key and roared without strain.

But he kept on trying to agree his two times – he had to, to make-believe some semblance of normality. He swore in a new set of intentions every night.

Morning and evening, Rainey one end, Jill the other and every evening scrape scrape scrape – Jill harping on the taut netting-wire with a not unmusical minor sound, the pink eyes flashing when they caught a spark of light. He always intended to be early with her meal but, just like going to school, some small thing or another appeared to delay him.

And then the dull end of a melancholy day – a few hours in the house, the fire dying down, the smell of hot rubber when the bottles were filled, Agatha making her policeman rounds, Ellen taking out her hairpins and letting the still rich gray-black hair flow over her shoulders, transforming herself unwittingly into a young old witch, the dark eyes burning in the parchment-pale face, Conor yawning, winding the clock and examining the kindling for the morning, the refreshed clock dinging and danging out time – ding-dang, time-time. Wash hands, face, teeth, feet and take the miming candle and dance a horde of shadows up the stairs. Bed and an insurance man's spell of a prayer that was a rope down which he slid into timelessness, through all the gathering pageantry of dream.

—Anthony C. West, The Ferret Fancier (1963)