“What’s this strange insect?” High Inspector Givens said. He was dressed in khaki kilt and a matching pith helmet, out on expedition to the Ramapos. It was not much of a mountain range surely, but easily reached by bus.
Inspector Tosh bent low, magnifying glass in hand. “A strange number of legs for an insect, technically, though not a spider, either; the eyes all wrong.” Bending so low, counting the legs (which moved and seemed to change place, making counting a chore), she was surprised to notice it gone.
“It’s on your hand,” High Inspector Givens said, and despite enormous educational credits, she shook it off. “Kiss me, you dear man,” she said unexpectedly. “And it’s on your hand now.”
“I will kiss you indeed,” he replied, and although they were unsuitable in every way, they soon married and, unknowingly, carried the Kisselthwist in their kit bag back to their native environs, where it thrived among happy hours and subway trains, creeping into cracks and crevices and occasionally discarding legs, which flew in the air like cinders and caused an erotic itch unalleviated by Lanacane.
An exterminator with Ajax Building Services, called in for a different infestation, found a pest he’d never seen before and, unprofessionally, squashed it under foot, releasing a strange, sweet scent that lingered on his shoes as he went in and out of buildings, unwittingly leaving minuscule Kissel eggs wherever he went.
An old woman with a small bag of garbage opened her door and the exterminator took the bag from her hands, got down on his knees, and kissed her fingers. “I’ve been longing to meet you,” he said huskily.
The old woman sighed, a faint pinkness to her cheeks, her quiet heart once again released. She’d waited so long that she’d given up waiting, and now here it was. “I’ve missed you so much,” she said simply. “My name is Rosa.”
And they went off together, dropping Kissel eggs in hallways, on the streets, along the roads they traveled. Their fingers touched often at the tips, lightly.
The eggs sprung. A boy fell in love with a girl, both aged 3. A gaggle of teenage girls flung themselves at a postman, wailing with joy. A window washer way up top of a skyscraper was attracted to a hunched gargoyle, and lost his step, swinging 30 stories high on his safety harness. He kicked off the side of the building, hoping to get enough momentum to return to his gargoyle, and failed. He took off his harness and tried to climb back up, and failed.
A woman who saw his fall fell in love with him; a cop who came to the scene fell in love with her. His wife walked off with the newsboy. The newsboy’s mother fell in love with her husband all over again, but her husband sniffed a Kissel egg and saw a stout man with a splendid chin, and he was gone.
The air was blurry with eggs, and the wind took them off to China and Mozambique and Patagonia and Tibet, where love ran slow because of the steep mountains, but even the yaks began to sort themselves with baleful yak glances. The people found that winter easier than usual, though the cold killed many who were out when they fell in love and lost their way in the longings of love.
“What would have happened if we’d never met?” Inspector Gibbons wondered. “If this strange, wild world had never produced you?” He fondly squeezed her arm, his eyes moist.
“There seems to be enough love for everyone lately,” she said. “I think we’d have found someone else.” Her radiant eyes searched into his; would anyone else be as good, as sweet, as perplexed as he was? No, surely not. “I take it back,” she added quickly. “There is no life without you.”
He was pleased, and beamed. “Life is you,” he said gallantly, and kissed her hand, to begin with. “Still, it is a wonder. Someone should study the process of love.” His thoughts, interwoven with the actuality of love, moved slowly and peacefully.
“We are scientists,” she murmured. “We should do it.”
And they would have begun, but her lips were delicious, and his eyes were so sweet.
By autumn, cars followed each other, defying the laws and crossing dividing lines as one driver saw another and began to follow, and packs of cars swooped along the roads, jammed together in their efforts to locate the face they’d seen passing by. They longed to catch him or her, see that face again, stop them and declare love, a desire as sweet as poison and steeped in nostalgia already, because they loved and were not able to reach. Packs of cars hurtled along, love swept, jostling for the perfect place to be near their beloved.
Or perhaps each car fell in love with another car, roared impetuously after another car, driven and driving both, urgently horning their love, as animals do. Certainly the crowds of cars spoke out loud, cajoled and moaned, begged and promised, overcome by this sudden need to see the other close up, closer.
Birds shot after each other, dogs panted and woofed in mournful isolated sounds that quickened their hearts, each dog convinced that it would run to find its mate until there was no breath left. Squirrels flurried through trees, unfortunately in love with the same squirrel and quarreling to their enraptured deaths.
The trees leaned towards each other; the grasses tangled in longing, each breeze skipped after another breeze, whispering endearments.
“The wind is wild tonight,” Inspector Gibbons said. “I’m jealous of how it caresses you.”
They were walking down the oceanside promenade, watching leaves drop and swirl in couples and crowds. A page of newsprint lofted high in the air and swirled around, joined by another page of print, and they took off together.
The sea was roiling restlessly.
“Is it the wind causing the waves or the waves causing the wind?” Inspector Tosh asked dreamily.
Indeed the waves were high, reaching out like groping hands. One in particular made spectacular leaps. “What does it want?” she asked, and took Inspector Givens’ hand and held it to her lips. “Or does it want this, do you think?” and she kissed his hand.
He bowed his head over her fingers. They were always touching, and there was never enough touch. He ran his hand over her skin, and he wanted his hand to sink in, to find the core of her, the part of her that could exist without him, think without him; he wanted to be in her head, her heart, her lungs. He had everything, and it wasn’t enough. “We must never be apart!” he shouted suddenly, and she thought, This is love; this madness is love, and there is no other madness like it at all.
That wave leapt high again and when it fell back they saw the reflection of a building along the promenade on it, and the reflection tormented the wave and it reached up again, hoping that this time it could touch those windows staring longingly back, each brick expectant, each floor bending just an inch closer to the sea.
“I wish I could be a wave and sweep over you,” Inspector Givens whispered, and then he blushed. “I could die now,” he said, “that’s what I mean. I have no hope for anything better, now; I have everything — and how can everything last?” His words were strangled on this last cry; he was trying out pathos as a seasoning, to make his love even more complex.
“We are scientists,” she said, her eyes glowing with fervor. “We must test it out. Step back from me! We are always together — maybe it’s just proximity.” She took a step away from him and then another. An awful ripping tore through her. She stepped closer and the ripping ceased. “Never do that again,” he said, clutching his chest. “I thought I was gone.”
They tipped together like trees, they pulled away again, and she turned, resting back against him as he put his arms around her, crossing her chest protectively. “Look at the moon,” she whispered. “Is the moon different?”
They looked at the sky, where the moon had changed its usual face and stared back at them, infatuated. Its mouth was open in anticipation, its eyes blurry. “It’s so large tonight, isn’t it? Some trick of the atmosphere?”
Inspector Gibbons looked as well. He thought he saw the moon wobble and purse its lips at the earth with something like hope.
The waves rose up, the water rose up, the moon took a step, in love with the earth and drawing closer. The eggs of the Kisselthwist had formed a pollen over the sea, the earth, the skies, the moon, and everything drew in. Craving and yearning, reaching and drawing near, the universe reached out and moved together, embracing everything in a clutch of desire, all life floating free and yearning, convulsed at last in miraculous love.
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