Saturday, 3rd. I discovered, too late, that Cara has been at my books — Quincy's Pharmacopoiea in particular. This specific prescription, in fact:
A Liniment against Impotency
Take clarified Honey and Oil of Nutmegs by Expression, of each half an ounce; Pellitory of Spain, black Pepper, and Cubebs, of each half a scruple; Civet, a scruple; Musk, half a scruple; Balsam Peru, a dram; make all into a liniment S. A.
With this it is advised to rub over the Penis and Perinaeum, in order to stimulate to Venery; but the sole End such Means can answer, is only the Purchase of a short Pleasure, which by being so procured, more strains, damages, and debilitates, than 20 times as much that is prompted only by natural incentives.
I was standing in the parlor this afternoon, about two, looking out of the window at the old well hill, thinking of very little, merely admiring. Cara came into the room and took my hand. She tugged a little, and I looked at her. She was smiling and pulling toward the door leading to the stairs.
I let myself be taken. As we were climbing the steps, her very nice skirt weaving before my eyes, I noticed she was carrying a small jar. She led me into her bedroom, turned to me, and undid my clothes. I stood naked before her, and she ran her hands down my chest and belly, touched my groin, kissed it. I felt myself stir and half fill.
Kneeling, she took the jar from the floor where she had placed it, removed the top. "This may do it, Charles," she said, looking up at me. I merely watched. I was a spectator of these things she was doing to my body.
In the jar was a salve. She took some on her fingers, began to massage it into my genitals and the area of my groin — the insides of my thighs, my testes, the head and neck of the penis, the pubic hair.
As she worked, sensation increased greatly. I felt each succeeding stroke much more powerfully than the preceding one. My flesh began to flush, not only in the groin, but everywhere. Soon, and for the first time in many months, my member was standing hard, and my breath was irregular.
At last, she looked up again and smiled. I let my hands run over her blouse as she rose. She wore nothing beneath, and her nipples stood firm against the fabric. I began to fumble for her fastenings, but she turned away and stepped out of her clothes in a moment. She went to the bed, sat on it, lay back, and spread her legs, arching upward slightly. Still smiling, she gestured to me.
I went to her, spread her thighs wider still with my hands, and stoked her. She was very wet. She took me and pulled me in. It was a hard rocking and a short journey. I exploded inside her, and she cried out, her legs like ropes around mine, our bodies taut against each other.
When it was done, I lay limp upon her; she was groaning and saying, "Charles, Charles," panting the syllables, her hands running in streaks down my back and sides, between us onto my belly.
I still burned, and in a while we did it again. I rolled off; we lay quiet for a time. Then she took the salve and, bending over me, used it once more. This time, when I was hard, she straddled me and worked me up into her. I did little to help, but she wanted little. This time she was gentle, and as she moved in amorous ways, she sometimes leaned against my chest with her hands, sometimes leaned back upright, her hands on her own thighs, and closed her eyes. I watched her pleasure, the mouth slightly open, the even teeth in their bed of rose flesh, the smooth, light skin tight over the bones of her cheeks. Her breasts rose and fell and swayed in a mist.
This time when I came, it was not so pleasant. And when we were finished, the burning about my groin was intense. Cara hurt too, I think. When she touched me a fourth time, the mere pressure of her fingers was fiery. I gasped, and she sat back, startled.
"I've got to wash this stuff off," I said. She nodded. I went downstairs and showered; when I came out Cara went in. I had to put on some loose pajama bottoms.
When she came out Cara looked uncomfortable. "I don't think we'd better try that stuff again," I said. "What was it?"
She sighed. "It's in your Dispensatory," she said. "Page 672. Mind if I try a couple of other recipes?" She grinned lasciviously. "Unless you're willing to go to a doctor or a shrink...?"
I shook my head.
"Well," she said, "it was worth it, but I guess maybe it was sort of extreme for ordinary occasions." She made me blush. Idiotic.
"So long as you don't kill us."
I went upstairs and got down the book. As I sit writing this evening, my cock is flaming and swollen, and I have to sit, with my legs spread, on a damp towel.
I trust Cara will never try the prescription that appears just beneath the one she used today:
The Sympathetic Liniment
Take oil of Roses and fine Bole, of each an ounce; Linseed-oil, 2 ounces; Man's Grease, Moss of human Skull, of a Person killed by Violence, in Powder, of each 2 ounces; Mummy and Man's Blood, of each half an ounce: make a liniment S. A.
We give this here only to oblige such as are weak and whimsical enough to have any Belief in such things. If the Weapon by which a Wound is made, be dressed with it, it is said to cure as much as any Application immediately to the Part itself; but for such Knowledge, the Reader may turn to Sir Kenelm Digby's Treatise of the sympathetic Powder, and meet with a Philosophy as ridiculous as the Facts are false upon which it is founded; but so easy is Delusion to some Minds, that they are better entertained with Chimeras than demonstrative Truth.
If I can sit at a typewriter tomorrow, I must get back to my novel. I'm not sure I like the idea of Cara looking into my old books. All women seem to be driven to tamper.
Sunday, 9th. The Book of the Black Heart
Chapter Three: The Ship
It was thus that Nothus arrived at the ineffable argument that, if the world was to be his oyster, he must open her. In order to open her, being penniless though streetwise, a wise guy, and now a wise child as well, he must find means of transportation. "The Navy Wants You!" the poster replied, unbidden, to his unspoken thoughts. "Join the Navy and Screw the World!" And so it was that Nothus the recruit ran through the town, topside, below decks, in his skivvies looking for the fantail and the catwalks: Are the sailors in their bunks? Can't you hear....
Clocks of the city, belltowers, steeples and steeplejacks asleep, booming out the night hours in ticks and breaths. At last he found her. The Hornet lay on the bay like a great tower toppled upon the water, her masts, antennae and gun mounts singled against the night. Nothus stood looking at her lying coldly and closely at pierside. Her island crags jagged out of the flight deck, the black windows of the Captain's bridge reflected a single light out over the Brooklyn Shipyard with its nearby Bridge of the same name, the harbor, the gantries and scaffolding, the buildings done up now for the night in black batting.
Behind Nothus lay the city through which he had come seeking her. Nothus watched. An engine now and then sprung its sound out of shadows and into the yellow flare of a street lamp. A swabbie song made of beer and cigarettes rose now and then on scuffed hooves, hairy fetlocks hung in bellbottoms out of an alley, and a nightstick somewhere tapped and rang on a grating.
A foghorn bloated. A gull shifted restively on a bollard. A mooring line creaked. On some deck somewhere heels clattered then began clanking up a ladder that led from a midpoint above the water, overhead into the stars.
Nothus turned and walked toward the temporary barracks that housed the mariners who were to man the carrier when she was commissioned. He found the hatchway and went in. The dingy bulkheads were piled with sleeping men, the floor was covered with seabags, ditty bags, bag dreams and sacking. He found his bunk, undressed to his skivvies and lay down. Tomorrow, he thought, would be the day they took her two thousand men and one great woman.
Who was she, this steel mama? This lover in whom he and his shipmates moved, whose intestines they inhabited? The great, florid face of a bo'sun peered in through a hatch, its jaws grinning. "Now hear this!" it shouted, "Reveille, reveille — all hands hit the deck! Go git her, boys!" A flurry of groans and motions, hands thrust through jumper necks. "Now hear this," said a voice of metal filings and copper wires, "all hands turn to and hit the deck, 'fore and aft. Sweepers, man your brooms."
"Go git her, boys," again said the side of beef hung in the hatchway. "She's waitin' for you."
Down deep in her bowels somewhere a huge throbbing began, like the pumping of a heart. There were boots and flurries, an exodus topside. Nothus at the rail watched the lines being cast off, the harbor tugs spluttering around and nosing against the hull. "Now hear this," said a voice of tubing and glass, "stand by to get under weigh." The sunlight struck through the early haze and into the gray-green-blue ordure of the water in which a mountain of steel floated and began to swing free.
Above him the island just missed the roadbed of the Brooklyn Bridge joining the two islands. She was not yet moving under her own power, but the power was there, steaming and caking in the oily pipes underfoot. The men assembled on the flight deck in their white pajamas saluted and the Marine band, like so many fancy caterpillars, piped and fluted into the morning pigeons. An admiral admired himself from afar atop the ship's bridge. Old Glory flapped away from its steel truss. Along the waterfront scores of lesser vessels clustered and huddled against their piers and moorings. Nothus listened for the first sounds of the great lady's screws churning fathoms deep in the belly of the bay. At last they came — the tugs pulled loose and she headed for the open seas.
Behind her the shore slipped backward farther into its continent. The city became visibly a city, not a stratagem of buildings. Then the tall woman with her torch signaled farewell to this vagrant sister and slipped under the horizon. Now there were nothing but waves and sky and a skipperly breeze sloshing spume over the bow, gulls, and a patient pelican perched upon the fantail.
The clouds scuttled overhead, leading the way. Though she rolled and made headway, Nothus knew, his new mistress had lost her sense of direction. The ship and time were static. To starboard a school of porpoises jolloped and flirted, and the sun fluttered out overhead now and again like a drunken helmsman alternately hilarious and morose.
Flash and dissolve: Nothus found himself in the ice-blue sea of Madame Sosostris' crystal ball looking upward toward the surface. In the sea's belly there were shapes like kidneys and livers, hearts tremulous among the groves of weed and seagrass. Or was this one of Nothus' aquaria in the sun porch of his father's house? Nothus sent his eyes roving after a great flat shape with a tail that flipped after a cloud of silvery scales. In the ooze of a rock ledge a monstrous worm like a colon cut free sustained itself by digesting mud crawlers. Anemones bloomed, voracious, out of fissures, and a thing made of a sack and eight snakes skittered along in a cloak of silt.
His gills palpitating behind his ears, Nothus floated and began to rise off the bottom toward the hulk becalmed overhead — she was encrusted with barnacles. As he moved closer the hull dissolved or, rather, became as transparent as the glass sides of Nothus' aquaria.
I am very tired, but I know what I'll write tomorrow. Yesterday morning, we had only the bells of the churches, but this morning we had Rafe again for coffee — or Cara did. She has spent the rest of the day making candles — all colors: the rainbow, and white, and black — using paraffin, crayons for pigment, and for wicks some old thick twine she found in the shed and soaked in wax.
The Book of the Black Heart
Chapter Three: The Ship, continued
It was as though the dead men inside were walking on a hide made of air. Nothus, with one great eye, glazed upward into a forest of feet. The sailors, their hair wavering in the currents of a liquid lighter than water, danced their hornpipes silently, did the business of the darkness in wavers. Among them, like threads of rust, the veins and arteries of the ship stitched and trembled, pulling the whole into a fabric of motion and stillness.
On the bridge, through layers of mirrors and transparencies, a man in a blue blazer had thrust his head into a wreath made of golden tarnished foliage and bits of coin and ribbon. He was greatly bearded. On his brow was a legend tattooed in red: "For God and Country." His hand was on the wheel, but he was looking aft, and his guidance was random. He spun and jerked the spokes of the great circle of driftwood that steered the ship. The rudder, Nothus could see, stuttered and flushed. The ship was stilled in a great tarn of caudals and dorsals, bulging eyes and distended mouths. Slugs sludged along the ratlines and hawsers. The capstan creaked with the corrosion of hours, winding its chain endlessly, never becoming overburdened, for as each new link approached the steel spool, the oldest and farthest disintegrated and fell to wet dust on the deck.
"Whose ship is this?" Nothus asked, "whose voyage?" Into the night she pulled, under the stars parsed out over Oceanus, the whitecaps breaking, breaking against the bow, the wake luminous, made of swells that looked like the breasts of mermaids, sexless, without nipples — only surfaces made of brine, concealing brine; roofing hearts that sucked and forged like squid breathing.
The ship pumped and plunged, and Nothus listened to its metal heart squeezing sound out of silence, the sound falling back into silence, rust, the beautiful and deadly branches of coral forests scraping upward towards the keel. "What is the destination of this, my true mother?" Nothus asked. "What is mine?" But there was no answer, and Nothus, for the time being, was all at sea. The only things of which he was to a degree certain was this: he was young, he was his own father, and there must be ports and coasts over the horizon.