Sing to It by Amy Hempel Read Online (FREE)
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Sing to It
At the end, he said, No metaphors! Nothing is like anything else. Except he said to me before he said that, Make your hands a hammock for me. So there was one.
He said, Not even the rain—he quoted the poet—not even the rain has such small hands. So there was another.
At the end, I wanted to comfort him. But what I said was, Sing to it. The Arab proverb: When danger approaches, sing to it.
Except I said to him before I said that, No metaphors! No one is like anyone else. And he said, Please.
So—at the end, I made my hands a hammock for him.
My arms the trees.
The Orphan Lamb
He carved the coat off the dead winter lamb, wiped her blood on his pants to keep a grip, circling first the hooves and cutting straight up each leg, then punching the skin loose from muscle and bone.
He tied the skin with twine over the body of the orphan lamb so the grieving ewe would know the scent and let the orphan lamb nurse.
Or so he said.
This was seduction. This was the story he told, of all the farm boy stories he might have told. He chose the one where brutality saves a life. He wanted me to feel, when he fitted his body over mine, that this was how I would go on, this was how I would be known.
A Full-Service Shelter
They knew me as one who shot reeking crap out of cages with a hose.
—Leonard Michaels, “In the Fifties”
They knew me as one who shot reeking crap out of cages with a hose—and liked it. And would rather do that than go to a movie or have dinner with a friend. They knew me as one who came two nights a week, who came at four and stayed till after ten, and knew it was not enough, because there was no such thing as enough at the animal shelter in Spanish Harlem that was run by the city, which kept cutting the funds.
They knew us as the ones who checked the day’s euth list for the names of the dogs scheduled to be killed the next morning, who came to take the death-row dogs, who were mostly pit bulls, for a last long walk, brought them good dinners, cleaned out their kennels, and made their beds with beach towels and bath mats and Scooby-Doo fleece blankets still warm from industrial dryers. They knew me as one who made their beds less neatly over the course of a difficult evening, who thought of the artist whose young daughter came to visit his studio, pointed to the painting she liked, and asked, “Why didn’t you make them all good?”
They knew us as the ones who put pigs’ ears on their pillows, like chocolates in a good hotel. They knew us as vocal vegetarians who brought them cooked meat—roast turkey, rare roast beef, and honey-glazed ham—to top off the canned food we supplied, which was still better than what they were fed there. They knew us as the ones who fed them when they were awake, instead of waking them at 2:00 A.M. for feeding, the way the overnight staff had been ordered by a director who felt they did not have enough to do.