by Francesca Piatek


"It was at this point that...the guest
bathroom...took off on wheels...?

The first time I saw the Devil was in Hartsdale, New York. And I've been calling South America ever since for no reason, and this is the Devil's work. I was a guest in someone's house when either very quickly or extremely slowly -- it's so very often hard to tell which -- skin grew over everybody's left eye.

- Hola, said the devil.

- Yo no habla espanol, I replied

I don't know anything about medicine but I know what I like. I was already sick from the decaffeinated ice-tea which tasted like machinery. I was already sick from the Crystal Meth which I had never taken, but which some of the other guests had been addicted to for years so that their skulls were still too prominent in their young heads. Our hosts were getting old and in very good physical shape. A sickly greenish light emanated from the exercise room, the exorcise room, where the weights were kept neatly stacked on weight holders, and the rowing machine and the bicycle machine and various other machines. The sun room. Three glass walls, the pride of the house, where we sat, also contained some machines:

Rowing machine II;

Bicycle machine III - The Revelation.

It was afternoon, Indian summer, suburbia, someone down the street had Lyme disease. Although we had been invited to dinner, dinner seemed an improbable event. There was no smell of food, there were no people on the street, and all the appliances in the kitchen looked like they had just been installed and could not possibly be really hooked up. The conversation revolved around the table in the sun room which the host insisted was "liquor-proofed" which meant we didn't have to use our coasters. Our glasses filled with that strange ice-tea would not leave a mark. Our hostess athletically disagreed, the table was not "liquor-proofed", we should use our coasters.

The coasters were insubstantial.

They stuck to the bottom of our glasses as we raised them to drink, and then fell.

No one quite knew what to do. The desert, Kuwait, the American soldiers who really know nothing of that kind of sun, the geography of the country and the world...

We were only thankful that the sun room had wall to wall carpeting so that as the chemically unbalanced coasters fell off our glasses, they made no sound.

It was at this point that [For a moment the air was filled with a faint sound of sobbing and demolition] the guest bathroom -- which had been carefully pointed out to us as we entered and which I had been using as a point of reference for several hours, having long since forgotten where I was or how I came -- vanished, or rather, took off on wheels, leaving in its wake some white rubble and some translucent dust. I had apparently become so dependent on this guest bathroom for my sense of direction and place, that when it disappeared, I felt much as the now famous Carlos Argentino must have felt when those swindlers Zunino and Zungri, under the pretenses of enlarging their already foul restaurant, informed him of their plans to demolish his home, which by chance contained the world on its 19th cellar step.

I don't know what to attribute this hallucination, for an hallucination I decided it was, on the train back to my apartment in the city where a diminutive east Indian woman had already taken up residence.

The guest bathroom, at any rate, had turned itself inside out and was sobbing as it moved through the house on wheels. It was at this point that I made the mistake of turning to the person next to me and saw they had no left eye.

Picasso, I thought.

But as I looked around the room at the assortment of dull right eyes and the now asymmetrical faces, I realized it was not Picasso, it was like Picasso, but what it was - was the devil.


The room must have grown very cold because the glass walls of the sun room were suddenly covered with moisture, large oval drops of water containing blue and green and brown circles with opaque-black centers, which seemed to dilate ever so slightly as the light faded.

A short powerful man, or a tree stump, appeared out of green haze which had once been the guest bathroom. He [it] balanced a one-hundred pound weight on the tip of his [its] index finger and as he [it] passed through the kitchen, the oven burst into flames.

- Hola, said the devil

-Indian summer, said the devil

- It is summer almost elsewhere, said the devil

-Almost elsewhere this nighttime it is hot. I have enough money!, said the devil.

- Tome asiento por favor, forever the ride, said the devil.

- Que dia es hoy?, asked the devil. Yo no habla espanol, I replied.

- No matter, said the devil. I can tell you are already possessed by a demon, you are neither here, said the devil pointing with his [its] right hand. Or there, said the devil pointing with his [its] left hand at the very same place. Devil logic.

- See all these people, look to C!, said the devil, waving his arm around the room in a very passionate gesture and then suddenly stopping, his arm in the air, and moving his wrist back and forth as if he were screwing in an invisible light bulb, looking sad and like he was about to dance.

- All of them they have sold me their left eye in exchange for this or that.

The devil turned towards the glass walls of the sun room. It was dark outside and the moisture on the glass looked like an odd faintly moving beaded curtain.

- Human eyes, he [it] said happily. Very dreamy, held together by nothing but butterfly wings.

-What is it you all want, said the devil, turning away from the glass. And why are you all so profoundly disappointed, and what is a Munken Drob?

-Drunken Mob.

-These are rhetorical questions, yelled the devil. I know something elsewhere I don't need to know anymore. Sometimes my head swims, slightly, all the things I know, slightly, like a witch's boulder in a flood, like a woman in the Adriatic.

The insane and grief-stricken guest bathroom veered around the corner, into the room, and pulled up in front of me. Its doors flew open and I saw it was very deep inside, deeper than a room and silvery dark except for a distant light, which must have been the sink, there was water flowing over its sides and it shone like marble. Jane Austen and Debby Harry appeared out of its darkness, their arms lightly draped around each others' waists. They walked through the wall of eyes and disappeared into the suburban night. Some other women followed, I didn't know their names. The devil hummed

I was on the driveway. My shadow was very long, I couldn't see the upper half. I didn't want to walk aimlessly through the American night which is blacker and more severe than other nights. Nevertheless I started down the driveway. As I drew near the mailbox I heard music. Mozart's Requiem coming softly out of the mailbox. As I walked down the street past other mailboxes belonging to invisible homes, the Requiem came from them too, it softly filled the night and hung on the road and came from all points like mist.

I walked in this way in this music around the neighborhood for a long time.

When the maid came the next day -- I assume it was the next day -- she helped me out of a chair and showed me to the guest bathroom where she said I could clean up. I went straight to the garage, there was no sign of the guests or the hosts. The oven was still in flames. The maid kindly pointed me in the direction of the train station.

I walked for an hour or so in the bright sun light and caught the express out of White Plains, which only stopped at Bronxville, Mt. Vernon, and 125th street before reaching Grand Central Station.

To be continued