As if agreeing with me, a lion roared, hungry for blood, off in Crumley’s African territory.
“Just when you and I were beginning to get along so well,” said Crumley.
And hung up.
All over Venice, window-shades were going up for the first time in weeks, months, or years.
It was as if the ocean town were coming awake just before going to sleep forever.
A windowshade right across from my apartment, in a little white-flake-painted bungalow, had lifted during the day, and . . .
As I entered my apartment that night, I glanced over and was fascinated.
The eyes were staring at me.
Not just one pair, but a dozen, not a dozen but a hundred or more.
The eyes were glass and lay in shining paths or were displayed on small pedestals.
The eyes were blue and brown and green and hazel and yellow.
I walked across my narrow street and stood looking down and in at the fabulous aggie-marble display.
“What a game that would make in the schoolyard dirt,” I said, just to me.
The eyes said nothing. They rested on their stands or strewn in little clusters on a white velvet cloth, fixing their gaze through and beyond me, at some cold future just over my shoulder and down my spine.
Who had made the glass eyes and who had put them in the window and who waited inside to sell them and pop them into people’s sockets, I could not say.
Whoever it was was another of Venice’s unseen manufacturers and salesmen. I had, on occasion, far back in the cavern reaches of this bungalow, seen a piercing blue-white flame and someone’s hands working at teardrops of melting glass. But the old man (everyone is old in Venice, California) had his face hidden behind a thick metal-and-glass fire-torch mask. All you could see, far off, was a new stare coming to life, a blind eye being brought to focus in flame, to be laid out like a bright bonbon in the window next day.
Whether anyone ever came to buy this special jewelry, that also I did not know. I had never seen anyone blundering into the place or striding out with a fresher gaze. The windowshade had only been raised once or twice a month during the last year.
Looking down, I thought, strange eyes, do you see the lost canaries? and where did they go?
And added, watch my place, yes? During the night, stay alert. The weather may change. Rain may come. Shadows may touch my doorbell. Much note, please, and long remember.
The shiny agate-marble-mib long-years-ago schoolyard companions did not so much as blink.
At which point, a hand like a magician’s slid from the shadows behind the display and pulled the lid down over the eyes.
It was as if the glass blower resented my staring at his stares.
Or perhaps he feared I might sneeze out one eye and come in for a refill.
A customer! That might spoil his perfect record. Ten years of blowing glass and not a single sale.
As a sideline, I wondered, does he sell bathing suits from 1910?
Back in my apartment, I glanced out.
The shade had gone back up again, now that I was not the Inquisition standing outside.
The eyes were bright and waiting.
What, I wondered, will they see tonight?
“With nothing trembles…” Instantly, I awoke.
“What,” I said to the empty ceiling.
Had Lady Macbeth said that?
With nothing trembles.
To be afraid of nothing for no reason.
And having to live with that nothing until dawn.
Was that the fog bruising my door? Was that the mist testing my keyhole? And was that the special miniature rainstorm prowling my doormat, leaving seaweed?
I was afraid to go look.
I opened my eyes. I looked at the hall which led to my two-by-four kitchen and my two-by-two Singer’s Midgets bathroom.
I had hung an old torn white bathrobe there last night.
But now the robe wasn’t a robe. With my glasses off and lying on the floor by my cot, my vision being what it was, almost legally blind, the robe had . . . changed.
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