the Remembered Saints: My Life and Subsequent Death
Execution of the Sun"
Among the Jellyfish"
of the Manfestation"
Cake and Double Talk"
the Remembered Saints:
My Life & Subsequent Death
Going Under of the Twilight World
Lake Cloven-Heart Ski Resort, named such because the twin
valley-bound lakes seemingly miles below the lodge look
as if a giant, heart-hoofed pig had stepped over the mountains
and driven a single foot deep into the valley mud—a
fact which only becomes apparent to our foursome when
the Dasher has climbed up up up the mountain side, gasping
and roaring, and the angle of the frozen lakes shifts
and—my God, it looks like a cloven heart, etc. all
around—and then: screeeeeeeech says the Dasher,
sliding to a stop, summit-edged.
—Christ, says Onion, slipping
on the parking lot pavement and feeling, in a flushed
flash, that it's all come to this, a Dasher gasping its
way up a pseudo-Andean slope so that he can lickety-split
slip-leap his way down in one heart-knotted gulp and splat
himself flat on a frozen lake. Without thinking, he throws
himself prone onto the scraped and salted asphalt.
There's our man,
Charlie Onion's his name.
Give him a hand up, will you,
We think he's gone lame.
Around them and ignoring them, yuppies
in lime-green ski-suits grimace under the weight of gleaming
skis and lancing poles, like-hued toddlers in tow. Moving
faster: the spandexed teenaged girls and the baggy-clothed
ski-boarding boys, and in the middle of the swirl, inside
the whirl of ski lift gears and gleeful, plummeting shouts,
three-quarters of our foursome waits awkwardly while Charlie
O, trembling, rises above the frozen lake.
Arb [wrist turned facewards]: we've
got four hours to go before the show. So what do we do?
Shrugs from the Onions—never been,
says Charlie, trying not to look lakewards, but I'm willing
to try; new philosophy, that, what?—but only a dodge
from Candy Tabitha.
Arb: How about it?
CT: I think I'll just stay here in the
lodge. Don't mind me.
Ah, come on, etc., from the three, jostling
I'm pregnant, Candy T finally says,
ducking her head and smiling at the asphalt modestly.
Gasps all around, of course, and then,
in a staccato blurt, up jumps the Onion Charlie and shouts:
I'm going to Greece.
Stares all around, open-mouthed.
—Alone, he adds, having given
it much thought on the ride up.
hrumphs Cindy, now in the rentals shed and shuffling an
inch at a time toward the ski-and-boots counter. Arb has
remained in the lodge to discuss his paternal future with
Candy T, and it is only poor Charlie who shuffles disconsolately
beside his much-maligned and bitter wife.
—And what's all this nonsense
—I'm going to Greece, he says,
in a dampened voice.
—Oh, grow up.
No, he says. I mean it. I'm leaving
the university for good.
—Right right right. But don't
plan on coming back and finding a bunch of open doors.
Mao won't have it, and neither will I.
—Of course, dear, he says.
He shuffles up to the counter and nods
quietly at the strangely familiar youth who, along with
the fitted skis, offers him an odd Masonic grin. Pierced
nipple type, that, what?
But that's knowledge yet to come, for
old Herr O. So what does he manage, that erudite teacher
of peerless prose?
Herr O: Thanks.
A bit of a nervous grin, a head nod
and then glancing backwards: what lump was that
under the boy-man's shirt? (What did I tell you: nipple-pierce
type. A subcategorized specialty of mine but that's neither
here nor there now, I suppose.) Then stares the Onion,
perplexed, and suddenly like the dawn it comes:
Zoma. The Wild Boy.
Yep, the nipple-piercer is none other
than our dear Enfant Savage, and with a tentative quality
in his voice, Onion sends the name out across the crowded
Shrug from the youth, and Onion opens
the oral to ask whether Zoma will grace the freak stage
with the humpback but already like a Chinese dragon snakes
the hapless line of ski-toters, twisting and roaring their
way toward the double doors, and with them float the Onions,
Cindy and poor backwards-glancing Charlie, conga-lining
their way in mindless, bumper-car-like fashion and then:
boom. Outside and the snow like a melting paradise.
—That was Zoma back there, says
—The Wild Boy. Woody did a story
—Oh never mind. Just put your
—Put your skis on.
—Oh. I see. Like this?
—They're not slippers, you idiot.
—Well, I've never—
Like a mother then swoops the Cindy,
jerking poor Herr's feet about manfully and doing everything
but spitting in her hand and smoothing his hair down.
Then up goes die Sonne as the world slips mercilessly
without friction, but somehow he keeps from falling, even
when the wife gives him a shove in the back that might
have dislodged prosthetic devices in poor Herr, if he'd
—Ski to the lift, says the Frau,
stroking her way past Charlie with a distinct, East-German
Shuffle slide tilt shuffle tilt tilt
slide. Up hill then, puff puff then down a bit towards
a line waiting for the lift and picking up speed now,
good God, they're like rockets, these skis are, and Charlie
weaves back and forth over them like a stoned surfer and
then, as the line looms and the red-jacketed back of a
young girl proffers itself to Charlie's extended ski poles
(for truly, he seems to think jousting is a part of the
course), he is suddenly, magnetically pulled toward a
parked snow plow, into whose scoop he glides full-tilt
with surprisingly little sound.
—Oh my God, from the line.
—Are you all—
—What the hell did he—
—Fine, fine, says Herr O, using
the ski poles to draw himself erect. A grin for the crowds
and then he pushes off the snow plow and yes, finally,
he drifts down to the red-jacketed woman and manages to
spear her neatly between the shoulder blades.
Pop! goes the jacket, with a puff of
—Ouch! goes the girl, lurching
forward, and then, turning to see poor O, saying nothing
more and offering nothing to him but her feather-bleeding
target-red back. Cindy, to the side, merely scowls.
a long line, this, with little to do but stamp your feet
and admire a few spandex-clad asses, if the mood beckons—which
it doesn't for the Onions, and so they merely stamp at
the ground and snort. It's hard not to make them eat shrubbery,
I must admit; they're so damned deerlike. But no, there's
only the line and the snow and a few coughs and finally
the crawl into the wooden shed with the lift and then
around like a thresher it comes, with viscous speed, and
then bump smack against the knees, and the Onions are
lifted with a groan, and the skis tip away from the snow,
and they are out into the gray air again, bobbing and
swaying in jerky slow-motion.
Silence, of course, while Onion's gaze
rises from the snow beneath him up up up to what looks
like the foothills of the Himalayas, and then, with a
dramatic flourish, the granite-sharp peak of the mountain
unveils itself and Charlie is crushed silent.
—That's, he finally manages, where
Cindy glances up and then back down
at the skiers below them: yep.
—But I might die, Herr O protests.
Charlie glances back up at the mountain
peak, which now looks like a mangled bird's claw, and
contemplates slipping under the lift chair's bar and taking
his chances on the snow beneath. But just then, at the
very moment Onion Charlie tugs tentatively at the bar,
the line of chairs comes to an abrupt, pendulum-swinging
first, no one gives it much thought, the fact that the
lift is no longer moving. After all, it's not unusual
to be stopped while some rich toddler is helped up from
the lift ramp above you. So they sit there for five minutes,
and nothing moves but the lift chairs, swaying in the
wind. Then Cindy turns around, to look back down the hill,
and notices that other skiers are being turned away from
Look at that, she says.
They are the first words she's spoken
since the damn thing stopped, and for a moment, caught
in a dream of hot Mediterranean sand, Charlie is hard-put
to locate the voice.
Finally, he twists around and watches
whole droves of skiers approach the lift attendant and
then drift slowly back down the hill to the lodge, the
last one—that one there, slipping from the side
door of the lift shed, turning to look back up the hill
and seeming, even from this distance, to cackle—I
say, she looks damn like...but no, that couldn't be—but
Christ, it certainly—with those lime-green socks
and that lump under the jacket shoulder—
—What the hell's going on?
Shake of the head from Herr O; the lift's
lazy swaying has suddenly become vertiginous, and the
recently contemplated escape under the bar is now unthinkable.
—Stop shaking the chair, he sputters,
and grabs the side bar.
Of course, this can only provoke Cindy
to commence swinging the chair in wide arcs, and without
aural foreplay, Charlie abruptly screams.
Like a glinting ice pick, the sharp
falsetto cracks through the icy forest below.
—Shut up, you baby! says Cindy,
in a hiss.
Damp, spine-chilled silence, then, while
the others fore and aft wonder if there might be wolves
howling in the dark forest beneath them.
—Mommy, says a child behind the
Onions, they won't eat us, will they?
Before the mother can respond, there
comes from behind them a chugging sound, like a toy motorboat,
and presently everyone turns to see Zoma making his way
precipitously up the hill on a three-wheeled mini-bike.
As they watch, he stops at every few lift seats and yells
up in a booming cockney voice.
—We're 'aving problems with the
lift. It's going to be a coppola minutes.
Groans all around of course, but still
Zoma inches forward a few seats and shouts his message,
again and again.
—Everyone all right then, guvner?
—I need to pee, a teenaged wit
—Whip it out, quips another, to
which everyone but the Onions laugh.
As the others watch from above, Zoma
works his way up the hill, shouting his message like a
towncrier in a town of deaf-mutes, until he is finally
out of sight, and only his voice is heard coming from
the encroaching darkness beneath them. Then there is the
sound of an engine revving, and Zoma again comes into
view, the bike now facing down hill and gathering bumpy
speed with the sometime Wild Child bouncing around on
its seat and then, as he brakes, the bike suddenly slides
sideways on the ice and charges at a large rock. At the
last minute, just as the bike begins to tip over, Zoma
jumps an athletic dozen feet from the bike and lands on
From a few lift chairs comes a smattering
Then Zoma leaps erect, rubs his nipples
for a moment and tries to rock the bike away from the
rock, but to no avail.
—Put the bike in reverse, someone
Zoma tries a few buttons and shouts
up: Eh? How?
—That green button next to the
key, replies a voice behind the Onions.
Prod prod push: rev goes the bike, chewing
its way backwards up the hill, then Zoma gets the gears
straight and limps homeward, all the while waving fond
farewell to our stranded heroes.
Sixty-five minutes pass, with Charlie
watching the sun set melodramatically behind the mountain
peak. From a bird's claw, it seems to morph into the right
index nail of the Apparition, beckoning Charlie to his
gruesome, thresher-induced death, and he stares transfixed
with a death-grip expression. Finally, he manages to break
the trance and direct his glance back down the mountain,
but like the Cosmic Whore herself, the peak's throbbing
presence can be felt even on the exposed flesh of his
—They studied him at Duke, you
know, he says, trying to forget the sight.
—Shut up, says Cindy.
And with that, they slip once again
into conjugal silence, while the wind whistles and the
seem to pass as the Onions swing disconsolately, their
lives having collapsed in the interim, and then a new
mini-bike appears below them, with a generator in tow.
From the swaying lift chairs, it's too far to see if it
is Zoma who swings his leg over the seat and turns to
greet the man from the lift shed, but it really doesn't
matter to Charlie anyway, does it, the poor man after
all, shall we say, a broken arrow tossed from everyman's
quiver? But hark: proto-Zoma and Lift-Man have somehow
wired the generator up to the broken lift and after a
handful of dramatic gray puffs of smoke, the lift jerks
forward, sways precipitously backwards and then jerks
forward again. And then: presto-churno: the lift, she
Snail's pace, I'll grant you, and even
far up the mountain, suspended just below the paths of
satellites, our Onions smell the burnt oil of the wheezing
generator, but no complaints now as they all lean forward,
hoping to cross the bridge before the Nazis strafe them
from the air. Chug-chug, sigh, smoke-puff, chug-chug,
chug-spit, chug-spit, and finally it's the Onions' turn
at the crest. Up goes the rail, and then, leaning forward,
skis angled in anticipation, out leap the pair, their
For a moment, they navigate the turn
left and follow a narrow trail descending through rather
meager evergreens. It's a steep trail, though, often plunging
downhill precipitously with, on the left, a sheer dropoff
shielded only by the occasional boulder, and Charlie,
still not ski-worthy, struggles mightily to hug the uphill
side of the trail. In the shadow of the evergreens, the
married Onions (no surprise, here, what?) do not speak.
Another turn and then a clearing (Natty
Bumppo would have seen it coming, but not our Onions)
and then a turn into a sheer plunge. Charlie gasps and
tries to ski backwards, as rowers do on the lips of waterfalls,
but his effort is interrupted by the sudden port-side
appearance of the red-jacketed girl. As she bolts past
him with a sneer, Charlie's right ski pole hooks the girl's
left ski and twists her around in front of him like a
For a single, frozen moment, she spins
gracefully across the trail in a cloud of feathers and
then, with little more fanfare than a suppressed gasp,
she strikes a boulder full-on and tilts skis-over-snout
off the side of the hill. Drifting hopelessly toward the
final plunge, Charlie hears the girl breaking through
the foliage and then, as he slides silently past a group
of skiers who have stopped to peer curiously into the
chasm (Onion Cindy among them), he drops over the edge.
is like riding a waterfall, this descent is, and Charlie
rides it as he must: screaming. For a ways, his skis sniff
for a smooth trail between the ravines, and then, momentum
gathering, they merely bump and grind their way south.
More than once, Herr Onion tries simply to sit, but the
plunge will have nothing of it, and finally, inevitably,
he gives himself over to the void, falling silently forward
into its great, ice-toothed mouth.
It is over in moments.
His coat is torn and something above
his mouth seems to be bleeding, but somehow he finds himself
at the bottom, upright and gliding. From above, a collective
gasp and then a smattering of applause.
Charlie stands upright now, gliding
without trying and just thankful to be alive, thank God.
Soon, the trail levels off again slightly, and knots of
skiers begin to pass him.
Cindy (drifting silently up in his blind
spot): You looked like a fool back there.
Onion Charlie: What's that? Oh. Lucky
I'm still breathing. I just (rounding a corner in the
trail, navigating it with little thought)...I'm still
not sure how to stop. I thought I could—Good God.
The sides of the trail peel back and,
as the world itself seems to fall at the Onions' feet,
breath, time, heart and head stop. From here, it seems,
one could step onto the moon with a single stride or fall
endlessly into an ice-covered pit—and only after
stepping out would you know which fate the universe had
Don't embarrass me again, hisses Cindy,
as her skis tip themselves into the final, dark decline.
Moments later, she is nothing more than a crouching speck
Herr Onion weaves his way stiffly downhill in great, hill-wide
curves, all the while dodging and darting his way between
the other, more experienced skiers, who plummet like bullets
around him. Soon, long before the bottom is reached, Onion
In places, the sun has burnt holes through
the snow, and as Charlie descends, patches of Virginia
red clay suddenly appear before him, like bloody mirages
at first and then looming real and, with a scrape of sand
and pebbles, catch the skis and stick as surely and securely
as great magnetic traps—but only for a moment, for
soon, just before the Charlie-head's downhill momentum
snaps at its leash, the feet urge the skis over the clay
so that, as Charlie plunge-freeze-grinds, plunge freeze-grinds
his way down the slope, he can't help feeling as though
he is nothing more than a tiny, porcelain figure on a
maniacally manipulated calliope.
But it is not I, Herr Onion, who jerk
you about so (though I must confess myself guilty of such
in earlier transmissions). Nor is it I who has placed
that solitary figure on the trail that you spy now, at
the same moment the dreaded ski lift drifts into view.
Weaving your way down to the man, you notice, in the dying
light, that he is crouching skiless in the snow and that
he is aiming a black-bodied camera up the hill toward
you and the setting sun.
You smile, thinking your picture might
be snapped, but no, Herr Kamera is merely snapping the
sun, the snow and the evergreens. Or so, in your paranoid
state, it seems. As you slow to greet him (smiling
halfway, working your poles toward the man), Herr Kamera—startled—slips
and slides on his back a yard or two and then snags on
a patch of clay, around which he spins slowly before again
sliding in a frictionless creep downhill.
In the process, he loses his camera,
which follows the curve of a subtle ravine and comes to
rest, like the lost snowmobile, beyond human reach. Nonetheless,
you, Herr Onion, studiously polite, begin poling your
way toward the camera.
—Don't touch it! our cameraman
Herr Onion hesitates, looks up. From
here, below the dramatically backlit cameraman, with the
last of the sun pouring pink salmon hues over the glistening
snow, Onion dimly remembers a photograph of a dying Indian,
his head wrapped like a toothache and his arms strangely,
painfully akimbo in a pile of snow, and he briefly wonders
whether he should use the man's camera to take his picture.
—I'll get it myself, Herr K manages
to puff, arms and legs wriggling buglike for a grip.
Herr O glances first at the man and
then at the camera, and then, as someone or another once
said, under a green sky, at the hour when everything surrenders
to poetry, he finally turns his skis downhill again, toward
the unseen lodge.
—Right then, he says, pushing
off and gathering speed in the darkling twilight. Right,
he says to himself, in the face of the valley's darkness.
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late Reginald Blisterkunst was a college professor whose
areas of expertise were Milton and the Metaphysical Poets.
Among the Remembered Saints was his first novel.
He also co-wrote Pluto Wars with Charlie Onion,
a frequent WAG contributor.