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  • Incarnations of the Murderer
  • William Vollmann
  • San Ignacio, Belize (1990)

  • San Francisco, California U.S.A.. (1991)

  • Agra, India (1990)

  • San Francisco, California U.S.A. (1991)

  • Resolute Bay, Cornwallis Island,

  • Northwest Territories, Canada (1991)

  • Interstate 80, California, U.S.A. (1992)

  • Battambang, Cambodia (1991)

San Ignacio, Belize (1990)

Two girls sailed under the fat green branches of trees that curved like eyebrows. At the top of the grassy bank, a plantain spread its leaves across the clouds. They passed little brown girls swimming and smiling. They passed a man who dove for shrimp that he put in a plastic bag. Breasting the painted houses that were grocery stores rich with onions. Coca-Cola and condensed milk, they rode the wide brown river between tree- ridges and palm houses.

As they paddled, the plump wet thighs of the girls quivered; water danced on their thighs. A few wet curly hairs peeked shyly from the crotches of their bathing suits. They had golden hourglass waists.

A man was a dragonfly. He hugged his shadow on the river until he saw them.

The water splashed under a great green tree-bridge that grew parallel to the water. Its branches were red and black like the skin of a diamondback rattler. In the branches crouched the man. The plan that the man had was as rubbery and pink as a monkey’s palm. But the canoe was not there yet. The two girls were still alive.

Yellow butterflies skimmed low across the shallow water. They saw the girls, too. They saw each other. They saw themselves in the water and forgot everything.

The tree that owned the water was closer now. A white horse sneezed in a grove of golden coconuts.

All morning the man had been thinking of the two girls whom he was about to kill. Knocking yellow coconuts down from the trees with a big stick, he’d sliced away at them with his machete until a little hole like a vagina appeared. He put his mouth to that pale bristly hole and drank. (Slowly, the white meat inside oxidized brown.) But now he was silent, suspended from his purpose as if by the heavy supple tail of a spider monkey.

Now the two girls passed little clapboard houses with laundry out to dry. They passed the last house they would ever see. In the river a lazy boa was wriggling along. That was the last snake they’d ever see.

They went down the ripple-stained river, the ripple-striped river. They saw the broad green rocks beneath the water, the soft yellow-green tree-mounds. They came to the tree of their death, and the man jumped down lightly and stabbed them in their breasts.

The canoe lay long and low across the neck of an island. Reflected water burned whitely on its keel.

The man opened red fruits. He bit them. They were soft with two-colored grainy custard inside.

The spice of the blood was like the sweet stinging of the glossy-leaved pepper-tree, whose orange fruits burn your lips when you eat, burn again when you piss. This made him happy. He went to sleep and awoke. A toucan chirped like a frog. The taste was stronger in his mouth. He laughed.

He wandered among the caring arches of the palm tree that shaded him like wisdom, and his shirt was hot and slick on his back. He came to the grove where the white horse had sneezed and knocked down a coconut. He drank the juice, but the taste of blood was even stronger now. He looked sideways in the hot high fields of trees.

Knuckles itching pleasantly with insect bites, searching through the wild-looking fields for ground foods with the sun hot on his sunburned neck and wrists, he swiped down a sugarcane stalk with his machete and then he skinned and peeled it in long strokes, from green down to white. He was good at using knives. He snapped off a piece and chewed it, tasting in advance its taste so juicy, fresh and sweet. His hands were sticky with juice. He chewed. But the other taste loomed still more...

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