Or put differently, Andon spent a lot of time next to water. He couldn’t tell what type of water this was from day to day, but he knew it was liquid, and big. Swamps produce heavy fog in the early morning and then again in the evening. Sometimes all day. This fog surrounded Andon as he stood outside his house, trying to understand which type of water he was looking at.
In this middle-moment between day and night, he heard the sound of insect wings skim the pond’s surface. By the following morning the water had changed; it now moved quickly in one direction beneath the fog, which by evening had lifted, so that he noticed boats and houses on boats floating by. In response he felt a blank expression overtake his face, a null mask for a well of perplexed emotions. And who could blame him? This was, after all, the same body of water that had been a swamp the day before.
On a Wednesday morning Andon walked from his front door to the edge of a turquoise lake.
Recalling how warm the water had been the week before, he jumped in and his skin turned blue almost as soon as it met the clear water.
Some glasses of water are transparent, others are cloudy; though cold water tends to be clear. The lake Andon jumped into on this day was closer to a clear glass of water, an experience that prompted in him a behavioral change. From then on he let himself go near water, but never in. As further avoidance, he stopped drinking it for as long as he could, which turned out to be about one day.
Though he couldn’t actually escape the water, even when sitting in his house next to a large fan, water found him in the form of fog. Incessant. Always around, invading his shirts, his pants, and surrounding his ankles.
Once, Andon returned home to find his house overshadowed by an iceberg large enough to demolish the brightness of his evening . He looked at this really large pile of ice for a while, then called a friend and asked if he would bring his sophisticated camera over to take his picture standing next to it. The following day the glacier was a swamp again.
Since all this water was becoming a significant distraction for Andon, he resolved to sell his house.
Who’d buy such bazaar waterfront property? asked Alexandra as she held a cigarette in her left hand and parallel to her face, with a nightcap in the other.
Someone who lacks imagination.
I’d think it was the opposite.
This is a house for the mind that doesn’t know how to make anything up. The person lucky enough to live here after me won’t ever have to take the time to envision again, the water will do it for him.
Why would anyone want this, she asked in a flat, rhetorical tone, while staring through the drink now occupying the bottom third of her glass.
Seated, her legs were crossed at the top and twisted again at the ankle. Once she had examined whatever was of interest in her light brown highball (or was it a nightcap?), she returned to staring at Andon with half-closed eyelids. Obviously he was guided by her undefinable coldness , which produced in him both annoyance and deference, made visible by a blank look on his face.
How many arguments have you caused out of boredom? he continued. There’s nothing better going on that day, you’re tired of tracking the front page of the International News section of the paper, and your train was on time; so instead you go home and create a struggle so you can entertain yourself.
This story’s getting prosaic.
Maybe. But keep in mind that not all of us are lucky enough to experience everything at least once in our minds. Because what I’m really saying is, the person who takes this shape-shifting waterfront property won’t be bored. He won’t fight with his wife because there’ll be nothing to eclipse the excitement of that liquid outside his front door.
You’re trying to pitch a toxic waste dump to an asthmatic, it’s sleazy.
How could you compare such a pristine body of water to a toxic waste dump.
She shrugged a response.
When Andon wasn’t at home contemplating this lake/pond/river, he worked as a driving instructor at his town’s driving school. He took students on driving lessons that were notoriously serious afternoons because, as Andon saw it, he was molding generations of future drivers.
Though most of his colleagues interrupted such monotony by treating their students to sodas, Andon took a different approach; at the end of most lessons, from his position in the passenger seat, he directed whoever was driving to an alleyway in the city centre, purportedly for learning how to navigate back streets. Each time the car inched to the middle of the alley, he would point at a pile of white ice resting on a slab of cement near the back door of a Thai food restaurant, explaining
See the snow? A phenomenon exists over here only, through all seasons, where snow falls in one spot.
Students believed him. For years the story gave Andon a reputation in his town for being some kind of water and ice witch.
This status, however, suffered a demotion the day he took four students into the alleyway about a half hour earlier than he had ever been there before. He knew he was ahead of schedule, but he couldn’t wait to impress them with his meteorological acumen, especially the student then occupying the driver’s seat. For the past month he had been captivated by the way she crossed one leg over the other with hooked ankles as they all stood in the parking lot reviewing the day’s progress. He imagined that such a style of standing, a sort of twisted contrapposto, must have required subtle yet exacting balance, which intensified Andon’s fascination with her.
Such confidence increased as Andon began his practiced spiel about the weather phenomenon, while the student-driven car inched through the narrow passage approaching the place. As he neared paragraph three, they passed the back door of the restaurant and saw a waiter toss what appeared to be crushed ice cubes from a bucket.
Sometime around six in that evening, this waiter – whose job between lunch and dinner service was to empty and clean the ice machine located near the back door of Tim’s Thai Heaven – told the police that the only moment he remembered about the event was its middle, which happened like this: He was reading the painted ‘Student Driver’ sign applied to the doors of a green car moving slowly along the alleyway, when he noticed that in its front and back seats, five heads were all staring back at him as he heard that crushing sound a bumper makes when it encounters its own potential.
An artist book and short story in homage to Walter Abish
By Mary Rinebold
Design by Studio Eisl
Edition of 100
Risograph printing by Hato Press
Abish, Walter. “Access,” In the Future Perfect, pp. 69. New York: New Directions Publishing Corporation, 1975.
Abish, Walter. “Parting Shot,” In the Future Perfect, pp. 26. New York: New Directions Publishing Corporation, 1975.
Abish, Walter. “Ardor/Awe/Atrocity,” In the Future Perfect, pp. 42. New York: New Directions Publishing Corporation, 1975.