She shuffles on her fingers—she scoots, more likely: she scoots on her fingers, on the slick marble walkways, where the monks drink water and shave.

Go-go, Michele.

Her cart is driven by batteries that she found in the basement—next to where the emaciated polish man (and pale, he looked like ghosts, she remembered) was chipping ice and howling. There were batteries at his feet, scattered on the floor like little beetles.

Little beetles, she thinks now and laughs. Her cart scoots past the monks who do not look pleased or angered or alive. Once, when she was smaller and had fewer teeth, she screamed: “Stand Statues!” The monks had not moved. One of them had grabbed himself—no, on his chin, and he had slightly twitched.

That is the one to break, she had thought. But he has still not broken. Perhaps the polish man is still howling in the basement.

Michele is on an errand now. She drives her cart (go-go-go-go): through the brazen gardens. The gardeners here are men who have no ears, wear beaks on their breasts and amble in tight squares, careful not to rub the animal bushes. They bob like dinosaurs, she has thought years before, after wetting herself and turning her sheets into adolescent folly:

“Burn, the wench, Burn the wench!” The mother and the father were tall and held torches and pointed down to her as she wedged into the corner of the bed. Their shadows were too big. And he had already fled out, out.

“We will burn our carpets, tonight.” The mother had said, white robed in the darkness: insected into the heart of a queen. The witches wore armor, shaded, scorned.

And outcast: concubine. I would not wet my bed with him again, she has thought: much good it has done her, since. She is wielded and cropped and turned into the exhaustion of the un-free limitless. Monks who are not kept to their own robes.

The concubines comb their hair and wait for the tumble: when they are under trains. Michele wonders if the polish man has finished cutting ice. She drives her cart, along the walkway, toward the concubine home.

She knows, as she has known the past few years, she will not make it past—or passed—alone.


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