Five Points, Vol. 15 No 1&2Spring 2013
From James Dickey, “I meant to write about the universal need for contact that runs through all sentient beings and will be served, even if it creates monsters. It’s too strong for everything.”
How to Eat a Pie
The others have all gone out. That doesn’t trouble him. He likes silence, the waves of quiet, the way his thoughts are so sharp and clear with nothing to drown them out. His father must find work outside this small Midwestern town or it is likely they will starve. His mother sits on a bench near the river, weeping as she prays for good fortune. His brothers and sister have ventured down the street to a house where an old woman takes pity on them and gives them warm rolls and milky tea. The children are devoted to their parents, especially this son, Ehrich, the one who longs for quiet and his own thoughts.
The parents came from Budapest. At home they speak the old language among one another. Their father is the only one in the family who still cannot master English; he is a rabbi, losing his tiny congregation, an old-fashioned man. Ehrich has heard him crying outside the back door. Even people of their own faith do not greet him respectfully on the street; instead, they glance away, worried, as if the family has brought bad fortune with them in their suitcases. The children have grown up in this country, but darkness lingers around them like ashen halos. They wear clothes that are too big on their frames; black woolen coats that American children would never wear. The older boys stay out of the house and make their own way. The younger children have a game they play in the meadow in which they tie each other to trees, then must try to escape. The rules, set out by Ehrich, insist they may not cry out or give up. Sometimes local people walking through the woods bump into them unexpectedly. In the dusk it is a startling sight, how quiet these children are, how their flesh flames with rope burns. With their black coats and dark hair they seem like creatures any normal person would flee from, even the little girl, who is too young to follow rules, and who calls out whenever she sees strangers, begging to be untied so that she might win the game.