Table Thirty: Joseph Suglia

You gather your clothing and dress yourself. You turn your back to Milk River and pull out a can of pears and a stainless-steel can opener from your duffel bag. You open the can of pears, twisting the can open with a stainless-steel can opener. You place a slimy pear into your mouth.

The milk flows over the concrete platform and gathers in a scoop. Unyellow milk. You scoop up the milk, dousing your face, arms, and neck with the ambrosial liquid. There, in the puddles: You see the frogs and the toads. The frogs and the toads are white with milk dust. Humans and non-human beasts alike are attracted to the flocculent milk.

You see a fleshy woman lying on the embankment. She is sunning herself. She is wearing a purple one-piece bathing suit that is too small for her. So much flesh cascades around her, so much tumbling flesh, that she does not appear to have a body.

You feel sorry for her, but why? You wonder why you feel sorry for the fleshy woman.

Now on Clark Street again, you walk by the Irish Pub, at Clark and Grand. You pass an evaginated department store that has become a hotel for humans and apes. You can hear the cackling of the residents, the cackles of wonderment.

You see a man in his early thirties through the department-store window. He is wearing a green short-sleeved shirt and has red hair. He is typing a text-message on his cellular telephone.

An orangutan is observing the man in his early thirties.

The orangutan snags the telephone from his paralyzed fingers.

Now, the orangutan is gnawing on the telephone.

The man runs from the telephone-gnawing orangutan.

Baboons push out their buttocks and rub them against the windows of this transformative zoological garden. You see the buttocks of the baboons. They, the buttocks, are red and rubbery.

Lurking in this ghost city, the human tribes are packing the Methadone clinics, ensconced in the massage parlors, hiding in the dentists’ offices and hair salons, cowering humans.

The people hide in the castellated department stores, chocolatiers, and photo shops, huddling and shivering in the back rooms, and in the pet stores that have become human stores.

Humans sprint out of their hovels—human game, human quarry—across Clark Street and into the department store. Baboons, walking erect, follow them. Leopards and orangutans are covering vast distances. They are running for the humans, coursing toward the humans.

What kind of store is the department store? Is it a Neiman Marcus? No, it is not sophisticated enough to be a Neiman Marcus. Is it a Target? So congested is the space with vines and trees, it is impossible to tell if the department store is a Neiman Marcus or a Target. There are pools of milk on the hexagonally tiled floor.

Tails aloft, on all fours, savannah baboons are wading in the shallow pools of milk, uprooting the rhizomes of the milk lilies.

There is a gorilla squatting on the side of the road. Clamped in its jaws is a designer handbag. The handbag is blue. It is a Gucci handbag.

Within the department store. Through the window: Baboons are stretching and beating the air and screeching and fighting over a cluster of mangoes. In the neighboring aisle: Frugivorous chimpanzees are chewing the mangoes, holding the mammiform fruit to their working mouths.

(Frugivorous means “fruit-eating.”)

You see the swinging doors and see herds of people squeezing out of those swinging doors, herds of people who are funneling out of the department store.

A chimpanzee is following the herds of human beings.

You are fascinated—enchanted—by the super-expressive chimpanzee. Walking on all fours, it resembles two headless human beings walking one in front of the other.

Sitting on a wooden chair is a fortyish woman. Her hair is sheening brown. An orange slice between her lips, she looks absently through the window.

Gaze above you. Gaze at the rooftop. Alone at the summit is a chest-thumping gorilla, a seething silverback gorilla pounding its own chest.

You walk on. You are looking into the store windows, frescoes of simian life. Of pulsating, jumping simian life.

Grasping a vine with its hook-like hands, an orangutan swings across the street fifty feet in the air.

One long arm dangling from a shower railing, a chimpanzee is hanging in the outdoor shower, a spray of water matting its fur.

Silverback gorillas are shifting down the street, covering the distance in a quadrupedal gait.

A cardboard box topples over, and a mandrill hunches out. Your stare meets its old stare. Avoiding your gaze, the ape thrusts its funny body in the opposite direction, palming the ground with its palms, the anthropoid mandrill. As it hunches away from you, you notice that its buttock pads are bright purple—flushed, un-flesh-like buttock pads. The monkey’s buttocks remind you of strawberry jelly and pomegranate jam and look more like plastic than flesh.

Arboreal orangutans are walking up the trees with their arms. Chimpanzees are huddling beneath the trees, grooming one another. The chimpanzees are not irreflective animals.

The leafy branches of the banyan tree umbrella the squatting orangutans. The orangutans do not groom one another. They do not talk to one another. They are not gregarious creatures.

You shift to the left side of the street, where tomato-mouthing chimpanzees are mouthing tomatoes.

The apes are gathering and feeding.

The humans—they, too, are gathering and feeding. Humans are plucking grapes from the vines. They are hording the grapes and eating the grapes. The grapes that are growing from the vines, the vines that hang down from the restaurant awnings, the vines that cover the Pasta Bowl and the Hot Dog stand. Festoons of vines hang low, dropping their grapes low, translucent grapes that are fed upon by humans with arched eyebrows.

A man wearing a blue baseball cap is pulling the grapes from the vine. He is wearing the uniform of a supermarket employee. His name tag reads DAVE. He is putting the grapes into his mouth.

A yellow bandana strapped around his forehead, a white-headed man wearing grey-striped pajamas extends his arms upward and furrows his nose. He plucks grapes from the vines and throws the grape-balls into a black plastic garbage bag.

A third man, who is wearing black yoga shorts and a T-shirt that reads Your Mom Washes My Car, is greedily plucking grapes from the vine.

A woman who is wearing a blue leather jacket, a red scarf, and red pants is plucking grapes from the vine and tossing the grape-balls into her Gucci bag.

An old woman wearing a white beret and a white sweater is swallowing the grapes, one by one.

A man—brown-haired yet balding—wearing a white button-down shirt, brown trousers, a black belt, and scuffed brown shoes is plucking grapes and hurling them into his blue backpack.

People are running up and down Clark Street, to the left and to the right. They are running across Clark Street, back and forth. Some are plucking oranges from orange trees and loading their Volvos with oranges.

Humans are now wholly herbivorous—no one engorges iguana flesh, no pangolin flesh is eaten by a human mouth.

Kill one animal, it is whispered, and we will all fall foul of the beasts.

The frightened humans gather and feed and then disappear again into their hovels.

Making your way through the grove of eucalyptus trees, you see reddish-orange orangutans pulling down the trees, snapping them, flaying them, and shredding them, fabricating elaborate sleeping nests.

In the misty distance, you see the silhouettes of great apes beating their chests, the violent simians.

In the animals, you can see the impetuosity of youth. Impetuous beasts, destroying the world that adults had created.

Copyright 2014 by Joseph Suglia

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