Crystal Castles
by Matthew Kirkpatrick

Printer-friendly version

Baby Jessica waddles across the autumn lawn. Cool gusts blow across the overgrown grass like thick waves of water. Pulled down by the undertow. Sucked into an old hole. Stretches her baby-fat arms across the circumference of the narrow forgotten well and hangs. Dangles feet above the cold earth below; dirt crumbling around her downy body down into darkness. Wind blowing through hair wisps. Cold soil around her waist. Something heavy dragging her down.

 

Ever since being struck by lightning:
She has no recollection of lightning.



Remembers playing in a tangle of electrical cords behind the television and stereo pawing at plugs like bristle blocks squished precariously together. She would remember the stereo blasting something adults called Journey and her parents on the couch rocking out with Fritos falling from their mouths and Pabsts. Remembers a dull jolt like being punched in the chest and smoke and an attempt at amateur CPR despite her still beating heart.

What she remembers: waking up in a bundle of blankets on the floor her body and mind no longer bulbous and opaque, her childhood cured by inadvertent amateur electroshock.



When the darkness lightened and her parents bent over her body saying you were struck by lightning something like lightning, she felt something, blacked out and static, hurt but bitter and wise.


Hanging above the well she imagines the bottom full of better Barbies and tea parties and worms and a basket of batteries for all her dead robot toys. She can feel herself aging there at the rim, hear her future in the darkness: first date, middle school dances, and the cold clawing and many marriages, to images of an accident, being held in front of cheering and cheering, warmth, cameras, marriage to the hole, marriage to an ex-con. She will miss them all unconscious in darknesses.



Like being struck by lightning she does not remember the second lightning strike (drowned in neighbor’s pool) being hit by a car (dropped) falling down stairs (hit by car) burnt in car accident (forgotten in backyard, struck by lightning.) Accidents somehow perfect.

Tired of hanging and trusting that somebody will save her again and enjoying the warmth radiating from the well hole below her cold feet she sighs and succumbs sliding down the narrow tunnel, her baby body though toughened from so much electrocution


roots and wire scrape her skin and insect arms reaching out of the darkness their claws clawing

at her newish skin
rot down here, decompose,
compost.

Throw olive pits and eggshells and banana peels and coffee grounds down on top of her and her body will return to dirt. Let something take root and grow in the decay.

Baby Jessica is surprised by the colors of dirt. Deep red, pink, black, yellow like layers of birthday cakes.

Baby Jessica senses something in the darkness in front of her.

Floodlights from above fill the dark hole. She hears them calling her name above, distant sounds bouncing down the tunnel.




She sees a mole.
They stare at each other.


“Hello Mole."














“Where did you go?”

“Hello Mole.”
“I’m Baby Jessica.”
Baby Jessica is afraid to take

makes her nervous – no human has ever extended a hand, never

fallen down a hole, lost and cold she has
nobody but to trust

She finds the Mole handsome, debonair for an underground creature.

The lights above are bright and she can hear her name “Baby Jessica! Baby Jessica down in the well!”

The Mole leads her
and lets him wrap a blanket around her and takes the joystick in her hand despite knowing its function, she lacks the hand-eye coordination required for video games and loses on the first level.

 

 

She thanks him for the dirt and doesn’t know what to do with it.

She watches him eating the dirt and believes that he intends for her to eat it and she doesn’t want to be rude, but before she can push a handful into her mouth.

Are moles like birds dropping food into the mouths of their young? She opens her mouth and accepts the chewed dirt and swallows with as much enthusiasm as she can muster.

 

 

She listens as he reads:
I dreamt last night
the fright was over, that
the dust came, and then water,
and women and men, together
again, and all was quiet
in the dim moon’s light.



A paean of such patience—
laughing, laughing at me,
and the days extend over
the earth’s great cover,
grass, trees, and flower-
ing season, for no clear reason.

 

 

“That was beautiful, Mole.”

 

 

 

“Mole! I’m cold.”

He packs newspaper beneath logs in the fireplace and pushes her in her chair closer to the fire.

A whistle whistles.

 

 

the mug to her lips. She sips, the spice and citrus hot in her mouth and

 

 

 

 

 

 

“Good morning, Mole.”

 

“Remember me I’m Baby Jessica I fell down the well and you found me and read poems to me and fed me dirt and made tea and kept me warm?”

 

she drinks another mug of tea and
eats the watery broth happy to have something in her stomach besides tea and dirt and he shows her

she agrees that it’s beautiful, lovely work, so intricate. They wrap themselves
the fire
above, the lights
they hear them shouting her name
bottom of a forgotten well
pressed together, their cheeks
hand

Baby Jessica in the hole forty hours with the mole creweling and cooking and eating and forgetting and playing Crystal Castles together.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Baby Jessica is rescued from the den by claws that drill down through the earth, widening the eight-inch wide hole she had fallen into. As she rises she looks down at the sleeping Mole and longs for him. As she enters the light of the cameras and lookers-on she, too, forgets.

She will become a photograph.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Baby Jessica will:
Say she remembers nothing, say she has no recollection of falling down the well and meeting a mole and eating dirt and drinking tea and falling down the well again sixteen months later and meeting a mole and eating dirt and drinking tea and falling down the well again a year later, eating dirt and meeting the mole and drinking tea and sleeping in and playing Crystal Castles and falling down the well again, and again, and only when she can no longer fall down the


 

 

 

 

 

The Mole lounges horizontal on the couch in his subterranean living room thumbing the Atari control about to best his best Crystal Castles score. The lights flicker and the Atari resets.

 

 

Whiskers twitch.

 

 

 

What he remembers is waking in a bundle of blankets on the floor, making coffee, eating a bowl of dirt, checking out Today for a while.  After he figures out what to do with the glasses resting on his belly, he rummages around his hole, finds poems unfinished in a bundle beneath his pillow, a rad Atari, dishes to do, and like many of us pieces together from the shit lying around his apartment what he is supposed to do with his day.

This is a poem the mole wrote about

 

Love:
The thing comes
of itself

(Look up
to see
the cat & the squirrel,
the one
torn, a red thing,
& the other
somehow immaculate


Lonely Mole.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The mole gags at worms so eats dirt sandwiches, dirt with fries, dirt spread over toast with strawberry jelly, hot dirt, cold dirt. For protein, he eats dirt. This makes cleaning dishes easy. The mole eats a bowl of dirt ignoring his twitching whiskers.

When The Mole moved in he painted the place red, pink, black, yellow to remind him not to eat the walls of his house.

The Mole can’t ignore the whiskering and investigates. He stands at the edge of the old well and sniffs.

 

Floodlights above fill the dark hole.
He hears them calling from above, distant sounds bouncing down the tunnel.

He sees a small girl.
They stare at each other.

The Mole is startled to hear such a small girl speak, doesn’t understand how she knows his name. Frail and pale, smudges of black across her almost white cheeks. She shakes, from shock, perhaps – he can’t tell if she fell down the old hole, or climbed down, though her claws were very short so he assumed a fall. Would she require medical attention? How would the Mole get her out of there? What of the bright lights, the calling? What does she eat?
He scurries back into his den and turns off the television, then scurries to return.
“Hi little girl.”
“I’m a mole.”
The Mole extends
his hand
is cold and claws and fur and he knows this
shaken his hand before, never
a talking Mole
never a beautiful baby girl

The Mole could help her, wrap her in blankets, feed her dirt. He has heard about little girls falling down wells before and knows that it could take days to rescue her – the danger of the well collapsing around her.
The lights above are bright and he can hear her name “Baby Jessica! Baby Jessica down in the well!”

He leads her into his den and wraps
A blanket around her. Offers her the Atari controller.
“Crystal Castles!”

She loses on the first level and he’s disappointed at her lack of hand-eye coordination. He’s been practicing for years, though and doesn’t hold it against her, puts the joystick on the coffee table and offers her a handful of dirt.
He thinks maybe she doesn’t know what to do with dirt.  He shows her shoving dirt into his little mole mouth and when she doesn’t understand he drops mouths of wet dirt from his mouth into hers, drops the mud onto her lips and massages her necks so she can swallow.

 

He can tell she doesn’t like the taste of the dirt and disappointed – he doesn’t know what to offer guests  - he wraps the blanket around her tight and hands reads a poem to her:
“This one is called For No Clear Reason. I am pretty sure I wrote this one.”

While he reads the Mole wonders if he didn’t actually write this one. He can’t remember writing any of them, but each day intends to write but plays Crystal Castles all day – how else could he be so good? He wakes up the next day not remembering writing any poems, and yet with a stack of poems scattered around his hole. Because he can’t remember anything, can’t remember reading, he assumes he has written them, thinks maybe he has written every word in every book stacked in his den. Rewards himself with a day of Crystal Castles. Rarely with audience, he is suddenly embarrassed that he may be reading work not written by the Mole and yet presented as the Mole’s own. He will begin to take careful notes.
He Blushes.
He gathers up the pile of papers on the table and takes them to the kitchen where he drops them into the trash where tomorrow he will find them and wonder why he would throw out such precious words and remove them and read them and put them on the desk to work on tomorrow after a game of Crystal Castles and maybe a little tea. He didn’t write these, he thinks. He means to write it down on a post-it and put it on the refrigerator, and start some new poems right away but hears Jessica in the living room say

He wraps her in another blanket.

 


He puts a kettle for tea on the stove.

He drops a teabag into a wide ceramic mug and when the water has cooled a bit he pours the water slowly over the teabag and takes her the steaming mug.
Too frail to lift the mug herself, he holds

She begins to fall asleep. He pulls a claw soft across her cheek and sniffs her lips with his.

The next day the Mole wakes and makes the usual discoveries – he has Crystal Castles! He finds a stack of poems which he assumes he has written in the trash and wonders why he would have thrown them away the day before. He retrieves them and spreads them out on the coffee table and sits down to write but decides to try his hand at Crystal Castles and sees the girl curled up in front of the fire and is startled.

“Excuse me, little girl?”
“How do you know my name?”

The Mole didn’t remember, but he decided it must be true because Baby Jessica was beautiful and sweet and curled on his couch.
He makes her tea and
he finds a can of soup that had fallen years ago down the well and she

 

how to play Crystal Castles and shows her the embroidery work he keeps finding and together
they wrap themselves and watch
hear the commotion
shining down on them like spotlights, hear her name as if they were listening at the end of a cardboard tube their ears
pressed together their cheeks
in hand

 

it’s impossible he made it, he says, without thumbs, even though it is just that he doesn’t remember making it, usually before bed he sits down to try his hand at embroidery in imitation of the beautiful pieces collected around his apartment and finds that he is really good at it, finishes a small piece each night before succumbing to sleep, waking in the morning forgetting how it got there, rediscovering his talent for needlecraft and poems

The Mole considers asking Baby Jessica to be his subterranean bride, but can’t help but feel like a pervert for thinking about an eighteen month old baby bride, but when the Mole sits down to do the math, he’s got about 36 months total to live and is now around 22 months or so (he doesn’t keep good track.) So if the average adult lives to be 76 or so, then Baby Jessica is 38 in Mole Years. The Mole, in human years, is around 45. Acceptable range.

 

 

 

 

The Mole lounges horizontal on the couch in his subterranean living room thumbing the Atari control about to best his best Crystal Castles score. The lights flicker and the Atari resets.

This is a poem the mole wrote about Love:
The thing comes
somehow immaculate

What he remembers is waking in a bundle of blankets on the floor, making coffee, eating a bowl of dirt.

Cold in the hole the Mole looks up, light shining into the well, and imagines for a moment the glimpse of a girl.

 

 

 

What he will remember is waking in a bundle of blankets on the floor, making coffee, eating a bowl of dirt.

Cold in the hole the Mole will look up, light shining into the well, and imagine for a moment the glimpse of

 


Note: The Mole did not write the poems in Crystal Castles. They were written by Robert Creeley.