Kristen Gleason




The sunlight was colored fat. She would not walk down to the sea because it had been flattened by the sunlight and she could not determine its temperament from her spot in the chair by the pool.
     The villa belonging to the gob factory was two-tiered. There was the long low adobe house and there was the pool. There was also the garden but the garden was everywhere. From the window of her room on the second tier she could touch the blades of a pepper tree whose roots were sunk in the lawn of the first. At night, there were twinkling lights in the tree, but no one to turn them on. Her vacation slot had not coincided with the slot of any other worker.
     She would not assist in the making of gobs for two weeks. Her hands were clean and dry. She spent some time floating in the pool. Otherwise, she walked through the garden squinting without pants. Twice a day she stood at the long metal table in the kitchen and ate a tomato sandwich. At night she lay on top of the sheets in the single outfit she’d brought. She kept the window wide open. It cooled off around two a.m., and it was also around this time that she could no longer keep the gobs at bay. They would visit her: red and green and gray. They would lump around the twinkling of the lights and pretend to be the fruit of the pepper tree.
     In the morning she thought: But aren’t I alone? There was a pair of straw shoes on the patio. There were tangerine rinds in the garden and a pile of white clothing by the pool. She stood by her chair and looked up at the long low house. The windows worked like mirrors against the sunlight, fat. They reflected the white sky, which was fatter even than the fat of the sun and painful to look at even when she didn’t use her eyes.
     All day long, she made sure to wear pants. She used a more moderate number of tomatoes. She kept a seed between her teeth that she intended to remove at first sight. There was a moment near the milk vetch when its red-green pod rattled off and she thought someone was coming down the path but it was nothing and no one was coming.
     That night when the gob-time came she lay like normal on top of the sheets. Her feet were clean, which had taken some work. The clean and shining faces of her feet were facing the open window and in the moment before the gobs materialized the twinkling lights were thin and white and her relationship to lying down was simple. But when the gobs took the light (red and green and gray) she experienced a metaphysical lengthening of arm. She was not merely noting the presence of the gobs. She was working on them. She was shaping them around the glow. But when she brought her hands up to her face they were clean and dry.
     She heard a distant splash. She snuck up to the open window on her belly. The pool was dark but there was someone in it. His butt was a buoyant pearl that had surfaced to court the moon.
     She watched for a long time. She had a desperate appetite for swimming and so did he—but he was the one in the water. The twinkling lights impressed themselves upon her. She went down the hall and saw them twinkling and mixing in the toilet. So she decided that she would go. She would join him. But when she came back to the window, he was gone. The gobs stayed with her when she closed her eyes. Even in her dreams—gobs. It would be gobs.
     The next morning passed without incident. She thought again about getting down to the sea but she could not find her sunglasses. She smoothed the gravel path with the ornamental rake and dared to touch the bright yellow flower of the prickly pear. At noon she attempted a nap. She lay on top of the sheets with dirty feet. And the pepper tree whispered: Someone is coming.
     It could have been an hour. There was a sound at the door. She turned the knob to release the latch but she didn’t pull. She felt a slight pressure from the other side and let the door open as wide as the pressure asked. She didn’t look out. She stood back from the door and was looking at the door but not around it. His arm came into the room. It was lean and dark-haired and strong. It moved around like a periscope. An impossible twist of the wrist. The suggestion of a ball bearing and a rubber band. Then it disappeared. The door closed. She fell back on the bed. She was warm to the neck but no higher.
     Later that day she stood near the buckwheat in bloom and paid homage to the long-gone seed head by shaping an imagined gob in its image. A gob the color of dried blood. A gob the shape of the plum inside a sparrow’s skull. There were all the bursts of white that were not the gob that she was shaping behind her eyes. There were the hundred heads of white that she was shaping. And above the buckwheat spray was the head of that someone she had been expecting, that someone who had finally come.
     Will you help me? he said. His shoulders sloped down. He had no shirt on. His body was a series of narrowing widths that ended in tendonous ankle. In the serious sun he was colored sand so she knew he would be hot to the touch.
     She nodded.
     He looked relieved. I want to tidy some plants.
     He walked off down the gravel path. He was moving toward the flattened sea. She followed squinting into the fatness.
     They came to a short rocky slope. The path down the cliff was just beyond. There were ten large succulents growing there in the dirt. Their lances were juicy with spikes. They were jagged green rosettes. And around the base of each rosette were some dead and shriveled parts. They looked like they would live forever, dead.
     He crouched. He was standing on the slope, one foot up and one foot down. He pointed at the juicy lances and then at the dessicated offshoots that fanned out around the base of the succulents. These have to go, he said.
     She started to pull.
     He watched her critically. You’re being too delicate. Act like you’re not at the factory.
     Her face burned with shame. He was standing in front of the sun. His head was a deep black oval that was fat.
     Listen, he said. I don’t have a mother or a father. I don’t even have a friend. I was a countertenor. I was a nurse in the last hospital standing. I was dragging corpses from the river. There is no one left but you.
     And you, she said. He came closer and there was no sun. She stood in his gray shade and looked at him. His face was glistening with sweat or with oil.
     He frowned. We have to do this without our clothes on in order not to get infected. Our clothes are filthy. If we get jabbed through our clothes, we risk getting pierced by disease. He disrobed quickly.
     Okay, she said. She lifted her arms and looked up. He helped her off with her shirt and then removed her shoes. She did the rest herself and got down to work.
     The succulents jiggled as she pulled and so did her body. It was hard to break off the dead parts. Her knees were scraped bloody by the rocks. Meanwhile she watched him work. He did everything in frantic bursts like a lizard surprised. He worked with his back toward her. His butt was fat in sunlight. His penis dangled shyly as he crouched, never touching the dirt. But almost.
     It could have been an entire day. Together they made quite a pile. The sun sat at a devastating angle. The reflection off the sea hit like a heavy blade on the bridge of her nose.
     When they had finished he surveyed their work. Good, he said. I like a clean base. How do you feel?
     She wasn’t sure. She ground some dirt between her teeth. It had snuck in and she could not get it out. He gathered his clothing—and hers—and started back toward the villa with their outfits under his arm.
     Meet me for dinner, he shouted from up ahead. We’ll eat under the arbor.
     By the time she got to the pool he had dipped and disappeared. His footprints had had time to shrink in the sun. In the shower she remembered that he had her only clothes. She lay down naked on top of the sheets with wet hair. The sun had hardly set when the twinkling lights came on. The gobs came right away and her arms defied her—she had not intended to work any more—and she shaped the red and green and gray with skill and speed in his likeness.
     He was sitting at the table. There was one bulb dangling from the arbor. Two moths bopped the bulb and the grapes gobbed all around.
     She came naked. She had no choice. He was wearing a button-down shirt and loose gray trousers.
     You have my clothes, she said.
     It’s good to have some time off. He plucked a chalky grape. It housed an inner light.
     She sat down. The chair was made of reeds that stuck her.
     I guess, she said.
     This still counts as time off because when I’m here I choose to work. I work only when I want to work, which makes all the difference.
     I haven’t done anything since I’ve been here. Nothing I really want to do, yet.
     You will, he said. His face was kind but distant. He filled her plate.
     They ate tuna in oil. There were spoonfuls of capers. She held fish skin in her teeth. He crushed a tomato in his hand and flung it onto the grass and they laughed.
     Later they swam. He took off his clothes and did laps and she bobbed in his wake. Twice she experienced an uncontrollable lengthening of arm but he did not seem to feel her in the waves.
     He helped her out of the pool and into a warm towel. She shrugged it off and was naked again. She took his neck in her hands and pulled his face to hers. She pried his lips apart with her tongue and inside him found an olive and took it and chewed. There you go, he said and gently removed her. His penis was erect. His balls were glaucous and high and tight and in perfect imitation of gobs and she knew by looking at them that her vacation had passed her by.
     The next morning she found a form letter on the floor. It had been slipped beneath her door in the night.
     Dear Sirs, it began, I am writing to express my deepest gratitude for the use of the company villa. Vacation allowed me to—and here was a fill-in-the-blanks—Signed, Slot C Worker.
     She ate a tomato sandwich. She spilled a lake of seeds on the letter and wiped it away with the back of her hand. She took the letter with her and sat by the pool for hours. She slunk past the arbor where the table was still set. There were golden-green flies above the slick and shining scraps of their food. She circled the scene of their eating and then sat down on the reeded chair to get poked.
     Dear Sirs,
     I am writing to express my deepest gratitude for the use of the company villa. Vacation allowed me to bodily experience the gob, who kept me at arm’s length. So I have you to thank for showing me what is a gob and how feels a gob (and how real) and how very gob I am.
     Slot C Worker.
     Her bare skin stung and stretched. She stood up. She kept on standing up. Higher and higher. An olive on her tongue. Her legs around his neck. Her fingers gripping his hair. She was riding on his shoulders with his head between her hands. So she aimed him toward the fat-flattened sea and squeezed.






Work has gained the coast.