Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Liberty Fish is a young boy growing up in an abolitionist home:

The house he grew up in was an enchanted domain, a knotty warren of hidden passageways, secret stairwells, sliding panels, floor traps and peepholes bored into the wainscoting at assorted elevations from which disembodied eyeballs periodically gaped like living bosses of ornamentation.

One lazy sun-shot morning, sprawled on the green and white Kidderminster carpet in the front parlor and thoroughly engrossed in the patient composition of a lecture on the sanctity of mousey life he planned on delivering later that afternoon to a polite congregation of backyard cats, Liberty happened to glance up as an entire section of papered wall swiveled silently open and out stepped a tall, looming gentleman with clenched jaw and fists who directed at the boy a mad piratical glare, crossed to the doorway opposite and vanished—never to be seen again. Already quite accustomed to the odd comings and goings of perfect strangers of every age, gender and hue, Liberty wasn't particularly disturbed by this specimen. Furtive figures often came stealing in from the nearby woods to be admitted at the back door by Aunt Aroline and end swallowed up forever by the house. On occasion there'd be a whole family of novel faces seated around the supper table, solemnly chewing on warm Indian bread and barely uttering a word. Sometimes at breakfast Liberty half expected a fully clothed fugitive to come climbing out of the porridge pot, shake off his hat and demand a cup of fresh water.

Liberty goes for a ride on a panel boat, pulled by mules named God Almighty, Jesus Christ and Judas Priest, on the Erie Canal:

Vaguely annoyed at having been roused from his reverie, Liberty swung the hard blade of concentrated attention only children and certain privileged adults could authentically muster back to the oncoming flow of silken canal, of vaulting greenery, of streaming sky. He'd been imaging himself a sort of fleshy extension of the boat itself, a living figurehead, all eyes, ears, nose and mouth, but where did the senses end and nonsense begin? Obviously the water, no matter how greenly dank, scummed and dead it might appear to the corporeal eye, was insistently alive, and the boat, too, a dim pulse beating in every crucified board, chattel kin to the maples and ashes and cedars whose latticed canopies sometimes passed so closely overhead that Liberty could reach up and pluck a leaf or two. And it was then he understood, without the language to fully pronounce it, that the objects of the world, every blade of corn, every sullen rock, every clod of earth flicked into the air by a mule's hoot, was, in actuality, a disclosure of feeling, the physical elements of the visible world each marking a site where an emotion stopped, crystallized and was made manifest in three-dimensional form. Which meant that the code of the most obdurate thing, when confronted by a candid and inquiring heart, could be revealed in the current of feeling opened in the interrogator's breast.

--Stephen Wright, The Amalgamation Polka

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