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Classic Recordings
Robert Altman Week

Saturday
Dec152012

« In Which Certain Things Are More Enjoyable With A Group »

Closed Circle

by ELLIS DENKLIN

Walking his dog in the park at night, he came upon them. They sat shiftily among each other, possessions escaping and rejoining their owners. His pet, a Portugeuse water dog someone he once knew had named Samantha, took a clementine that had rolled out of a backpack in her jaws and tossed it in the air.

He could only apologize to the nearest of them to the orange.

"It's an aberration of nature," she told him after he had handed the slightly bruised fruit over.

He waited for her to explain, but a man to her rear, hoisting a small jug into her arms, said, "Jesus, Marlene, it's a clementine."

"It only exists because of us."

"I thought maybe you meant the dog," he offered, as his familiar attempted to trick the woman called Marlene into throwing the clementine so she could bring it back. "Samantha! Come here girl."

Samantha did as she was told and sat on his sneakers. Marlene rolled the clementine across the grass. It picked up speed at the pavement and his dog, if you could even own such things, did not even have to move.

"You should have peeled it for him," her friend said, handing the jug to someone behind him. Marlene's long brown hair was tied up behind her head, her pale skin translucent in the moonlight.

"It's actually a female dog," he said. "How long have you two been together?"

"That's very intuitive," Marlene said. "You don't often meet such individuals in the park at night." She said the word individual like it was a placeholder for something else.

As before, he waited. There was no point in trying to get such a person to tell you anything. Either she would tell you what you wanted to know of her own volition, on her own time, or she would never tell you. Both eventualities were too painful for daylight.

"You may come here," she said. He and Samantha moved slowly closer.

"It comes from China, okay," she said. "They didn't want the entire orange. It was too caloric. It reminded them too much of testicles. Whatever the reason; I don't want to inflect some underlying racism into my story, but I may be forced to. There were certain individuals who wanted this thing on the market. They said they developed it accidentally."

"Why did they want a smaller orange?" a man asked. It was no longer Marlene's boyfriend, it was now an older man with a prominent jaw and a beard. Samantha went over to the man and licked his hand.

"So people would have to buy more of them. Or less of them. Either answer is equally reductive. This is completely besides the point. The real issue is, why did the person who made them, make them. Because before that happened, they could not be used for good or ill." Marlene started chewing on what he eventually concluded was a straw.

He saw Marlene's boyfriend reach for a frisbee in the moonlight. He failed to catch the device, but instead of walking over to where the frisbee was and picking it up, Marlene's boyfriend did a handstand.

"Everything's natural," the older man said, juggling a tennis ball. "We're more natural than the rest of it. A smokestack is natural as a rainforest, if not as aesthetically pleasing."

"You're confusing the word natural with the word nature. I said it was an aberration of nature."

They argued a bit more until Samantha started looking for a place to release her urine. He had wanted to add something to the conversation, a reflective note about how he felt ashamed of having a dog that wasn't a rescue, but instead he said, "I heard you all come down here about this time. I'm sorry my dog put your orange in her mouth."

Marlene said, "That's all right. Would you like to sit down?"

"Yes," he said, but remained standing.

"That's good," she said. "You may have noticed most people draw a variety of inferences from human speech. Not only is it annoying, it's wasteful. Well, that's wrong. It's not wasteful if the people who are asking you to do these things demand you make such inferences in order to please them. But it is on the whole more expedient to do exactly what is asked of you, and no more. Have you followed me so far?"

"Yes."

"There is nothing I say that is a metaphor or implication."

"I understand," he said, and almost closed his eyes.

Marlene peeled another clementine and offered half to her boyfriend. He had returned from his handstand and was now prefiguring a cartwheel. She gave the rest to his dog.

Ellis Denklin is a writer living in Brooklyn. You can find his website here.

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