Odlomak 11

(John Updike, Rabbit is Rich)

Naked, Janice bumps against the doorframe from their bathroom back into the bedroom. Naked, she lurches onto the bed where he is trying to read the July issue of Consumer Reports and thrusts her tongue into his mouth. He tastes Gallo, baloney, and toothpaste while his mind is still trying to sort out virtues and failings of the great range of can openers put to the test over five close pages of print. The Sunbeam units were most successful at opening rectangular and dented cans and yet pierced coffee cans with such force that grains of coffee spewed out onto the counter. Elsewhere, slivers of metal were dangerously produced, magnets gripped so strongly that the contents of the cans tended to spatter, blades failed to reach deep lips, and one small plastic insert so quickly wore away that the model (Ekco C865K) was judged Not Acceptable. Amid these fine discriminations Janice's tongue like an eyeless eager eel intrudes and angers him. Ever since in her late thirties she had her tubes burned to avoid any more bad side effects from the Pill, a demon of loss (never any more children never ever) has given her sexuality a false animation, a thrurst somehow awry. Her eyes as her face backs off from the kiss he has resisted, squirming, have in them no essential recognition of him, only a glaze of liquor and blank unfriendly wanting. By the light by which he had been trying to read he sees the hateful aged flesh at the base of her throat, reddish and tense as if healed from a burn. He wouldn't see it so clearly if he didn't have his reading glasses on. “Jesus,” he says, “at least let's wait till I turn out the light.”

“I like it on.” Her insistence is slurred. “I like to see al the gray hair on your chest.”

This interests him. “Is there much?” He tries to see, past his chin. “It's not gray, it's just blond, isn't it?”

Janice pulls the bedsheet down to his waist and crouches to examine him hair by hair. Her breasts hang down so her nipples, bumply in texture like hamburger, sway an inch above his belly. “You do here, and here.” She pulls each gray hair.

“Ouch. Damn you, Janice. Stop.” He pushes his stomach up so her nipples vanish and her breasts are squashed against her own frail ribs. Gripping the hair of her head in one fist in his rage at being invaded, the other hand still holding the magazine in which he was trying to read about magnet gripping, he arches his spine so she is thrown from his body to her side of the bed. In her boozy haze mistaking this for love play, Janice tugs the sheet down still lower on him and takes his prick in a fumbling, twittering grip. Her touch is cold from having just washed her hands in the bathroom. The next page of Consumer Reports is printed on blue and asks, Summer cooling, 1979: air conditioner or fan? He tries to skim the list of advantages and disadvantages peculiar to each (Bulky and heavy to install as opposed to Light and portable, Expensive to run as against Inexpensive to run, the fan seems to be scoring all the points) but can't quite disassociate himself from the commotion below his waist, where Janice's anxious fingers seem to be asking the same question over and over, without getting the answer they want. Furious, he throws the magazine against the wall behind which Ma Springer sleeps. More carefully, he removes his reading glasses and puts them in his bedside table drawer and switches off the bedside lamp.

His wife's importunate flesh must then compete with the sudden call to sleep that darkness brings. It has been a long day. He was awake at six-thirty and got up at seven. His eyelids have grown too thin to tolerate the early light. Even now near midnight he feels tomorrow's early dawn rotating toward him. He recalls again the blue eyed apparition who seemed to be his and Ruth's genes mixed; he is reminded then from so long ago of that Ruth whom he fucked upwards the first time, saying “Hey” in his surprise at her beauty, her body one long underbelly erect in light from the streetlamp outside on Summer Street, his prick erect in her ripe, ripe loveliness above him, Hey, it seems a melancholy falling that an act so glorious has been dwindled to this blurred burrowing of two old bodies, one drowsy and one drunk. Janice's rummaging at his prick has become hostile now as it fails to rise; her attention burns upon it like solar rays focused by a magnifying glass upon a scrap of silk, kids used to kill ants that way. Harry watched but never participated. We are cruel enough without meaning to be. He resents that in her eagerness for some dilution of her sense of being forsaken, having quarrelled with her mother, and perhaps also afraid of their son's return, Janice gives him no space of secrecy in which blood can gather as it did behind his fly in ninth-grade algebra sitting beside Lotty Bingaman who in raising her hand to show she had the answers showed him wisps of armpit hair and pressed the thin cotton of her blouse tighter against the elastic trusswork of her bra, so its salmon color strained through. Then the fear was the bell would ring and he would have to stand with this hard-on.

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