The Sky, A Cloud, the Rain
Let me tell you your name. You are Sam or Tom though some might call you Bob. You live in the woods though not in a house. Not a fool is the kind of fool to come see you. You eat what you catch and kill with your hands what you pick off trees or dig up from the ground. You don't talk since there is no one here to talk to. At night you like to look at the stars. You tried to count them once but stopped once you got to ten. You give names to what you hear in the dark. Once you climbed a tree and did not come back down for days, a week, three weeks, a month. Once you dug a hole and laid down in it till a rain came and filled the hole up with mud. You did not want to sit up so you did not sit up and the mud held you in that place. You took a dog in once that did not have teeth. It died and then you ate it. A brown bear took you in its mouth but it spit you back up though you took from it a shank of hair, a cut off claw, a tooth the size and shape of an ear. You've heard a voice in the dark call to you by name but you look right through it as if a name is just a word and the word is tree when all your eyes see is sky, cloud, rain, bird, and stars, and stars, and stars.
What a Bird Would Have Told Them to Do
There was no bread left in the woods for them to make crumbs with. And if there were crumbs to make, if there was bread to tear to crumb, the birds in the sky, the birds in the trees, the birds that were on foot in the woods, bread and its crumbs was what the birds ate. The birds in the trees were like leafs in the trees and like stars at night in the sky. At times the birds made the sky blue when the birds that were blue took to the sky all at the same time. At times the sky looked like the sky looked at night when the birds that were crows spread out their wings so that it was wings and more wings that touched the east of the sky where the sun liked to rise and reached all the way to the place in the west where at night the sun liked to set. So one night one of the boys got it in his head to think, But what if we used leafs in the place of bread? Which they did. When they walked, where they walked, they dropped down leafs pulled from the trees. When they turned back to see they could see the leafs that told them, You were here. They walked for days and days and pulled down more leafs from the trees to drop them where they walked till they stopped and turned back to go back the way that they had come. When they turned back to see, there were no more leafs in the trees. There were more leafs on the ground than there are stars in the sky. The boys, when they turned back to see, when they saw what they saw, they did not know what else there was they could do. So they did what a bird would have told them to do. They dropped down to their hands and their knees. Leaf by leaf, they ate till there were no more leafs left in the woods. They ate for days and for miles. When they got to the last two leafs they knew they were back at the house where they lived with the girl they called Sis and the girl with no tongue in her mouth to make words with. But the door was locked. The door to our house, they said it in their heads, does not lock. When they knocked it was the witch who stood in the frame of the door. Come in, she said. You're just in time—time for what? the boys did not have to ask this—for they could smell the smell of flame and wood, the smell of burnt skin, flesh that falls clean from off of the bone.
The Book of Mud, or In a Book In a Woods
There was a book in these woods with just one word in it and that one word was M-U-D mud. Look, the boys said, when they saw it there on the ground. A book. It might have been a bird, a bird with just one wing, or a dead bird, or just the wing of a bird. It was not a bird, though, or a rock, or a leaf or a branch fell from a tree. It was a book. One of the boys picked this book up and looked at it and turned it from page to page. On each page in ink that looked like it'd been dipped from the night sky was the word M-U-D spells mud. Mud, the book said, on page one, and when the boys looked through the book and turned the page from page to page to read what else the book might have to say all they found was M-U-D mud. Mud and more mud. It was mud and mud and mud on each page all the way to the end of this book. It did not muck the mud and there was no pig that loved the mud so much that it made muck of it. There was no rain that made the mud and there was no dirt that the mud used to be. It was all just that one word, mud, mud, mud. From page to page mud was the one word that their eyes did see. What did change, though, from one page to the next, from one mud word to the next mud word, from one page to the next page, was the size of that word mud. On page one the word was small but then the word grew till at the end of this book of mud the word mud filled up the whole last page of this mud book. It was so big, in fact—the word mud—at the end of this mud book that parts of the M and D were cut off or pushed off the edge of the book's last page so that it was just a lone U that filled up the whole of the page here at the end of this book. U, the last page read, when the boys looked down at it, as if U was what mud was made of and M and D were just there to hold the U in its place. When the boys got through to the last page and found just the U that was there for them to see, they shut the book and took the book home. Here, in the house in the woods, they held this book out to Sis and to the girl with no tongue in her mouth for her to make words with. This girl with no tongue—it was the witch in the woods who took it, her tongue—when she saw it, this book, she took it, this book, in her girl hands and then she brought it up to her girl face. Had she a tongue to lick this book with she would have licked this book good and wet with her tongue. What she did do, though, was this: she took this book, page by page, and she ripped each page from out of this book. Then she put each page with the word mud on it in her mouth and ate up all the mud that was left.