He saw (Cormac McCarthy’s Suttree)

The fire had died in the room, the candles burned to pools of grease in their dishes. Suttree saw with perfect clarity a parade he’d watched through the legs of the crowd like a thing that passed in a forest, the floats of colored crepe and the band with its drum and horns and the polished wine broadcloth and gold braid and the majordomo in a stained shako wielding a baton and prancing and farting like a brewery horse. He saw what had been so how a caravan of pennanted cars wound through the rain on a dark day and how Clayton in corduroy knickers and aviator’s cap marched with his sisters in a high ceilinged room where the paneled doors were drawn and a nurse in a white uniform called closeorder drill and tapped out the time with a cane and he could remember the stamped brass grapes of an umbrella stand cool and metallic under his tongue and he knew that in that house some soul lay dying.

He saw a pool of oil on a steel drumhead that lay shirred with the pounding of machinery. He saw the blood in his eyelids where he lay in a field in a summer noon and he saw young boys in a pond, pale nates and small bald cods shriveled with the cold and he saw an idiot in a yard in a leather harness chained to a clothesline and it leaned and swayed drooling and looked out upon the alley with eyes that fed the most rudimentary brain and yet seemed possessed of news in the universe denied right forms, like perhaps the eyes of squid whose simian depths seem to harbor with his elbows cocked high as his ears to rest on the dark oak chairarms. He saw a small boy in a schoolyard with a broken arm screaming and how the children watched like animals.

He saw shellfish crusted on the spiles of a wooden bridge and a salt river that ran two ways. Buoybells on a reef where the bones of a schooner broke the shallow surf on the out tide and the sound of the parlous and marbled sea and the seethe of spume and the long clatter of pebbles in the foam. He saw ajar in a garden with mousebones and lint and old sash weights stacked like ingots under a woodshed and the mortised shape of a wagonhub, spokestripped, weatherbleached, oaken, arcane. He saw a dead poodle in a street like a toy dog with its red collar and flannel tongue.

He saw what was so how his sisters came down the steps in their black patentleather shoes and he rode in the car with his mouth on the molding of the rear window and how the cold metal tasted of salt and hummed against his lips and he remembered the attar of rose and candlewax and the facets of a glass doorknob cold and smooth on his tongue.

And he saw old bottles and jars in a row on a board propped up with bricks in a field of sedge and the mixtures of mud and diced weeds within and round white pebbles wherein lay basilisks incubating and secret paths through the sedge and a little clearing with broken bricks, an old limecrusted mortarbox, dry white dogturds. He saw a mooncalf dead in a wet road you could see through it, you could see its bones where it lay pale and blue and naked with eyes as barren as lightbulbs.

And he saw what had been how that old lady who had sat in the stained and cracked photograph like a fierce bird lay cold in state, white satin tucked or quilted and the parched claws that came out of the black stuff of her burial dress looked like the bony hands of some grimmer being crossed at her throat. Black lacquer bier trestled up in a drafty hall and how the rain swung from the rims of the pallbearers’ hats.

A late trip sequence in Cormac McCarthy’s Suttree.

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