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Authors: Tennessee Williams

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The thumping sound at the door was that of an act of divine providence occurring in the form of a great package delivered outside Moise's door, and it was an act so divinely providential that I think it justifies my frequent allusions to God in the course of this writing and even concluding this sentence with that debased form of punctuation the exclamation point, but having referred to that mark I can spare myself the use of it.

Of course I don't mean to confuse you. The act of divine providence, the delivery at the door of Moise, was a collaborative act, or actions, by the living Actress Invicta and Tony Smith of Hunter and South Orange with possibly Celebrity Service involved as

Intermediary or entrepreneur, you name it, but anyway the Actress Invicta has been phenomenally quick in delivering the appeal to the Smiths in South Orange, considering her whirlwind involvement in the social life of upper-class Manhattan and her emotional involvement in tracking down Big Lot.

Implements of painting have been delivered by the discreetly hastily departing deliverer of them, no running footsteps heard or motor starting. There is a carefully chosen number of tubes of paint, brushes for bold strokes and for delicate touches and various sizes of stretched canvas, a tube of Perma-Gel, large bottles of linseed and turp, a casserole dish of shrimp curry, and along with all this a note in an irregular hand to the effect that when stores are opened, a supply of tinned goods will be ordered for deposit at Moise's door each Monday, until she is prepared to submit herself to the strain of a small exhibition at Hunter with guests of discriminate selection.

It was evident that the Actress Invicta had mentioned the hissing incident of Skates, there was a postscript that read, “If Skates should crash the exhibit, the tongue with which she hisses will be torn out with hot pincers.”

It was almost immediately after this event that Moise had another seizure and I depressed her tongue again with the dingy wooden spatula by the bed.

She came out of it with a sigh and a smile and one of those oracular or visionary utterances for whose recording I had kept a Blue Jay here.

“I am deeply saddened by the necessity of declining their invitation to join the Symbionese Liberation Army as their Field Marshal's mate. Please contact them for me and explain that the flattering offer has arrived a day late but that I hope that God and time will permit me to use new pigments and brushes from South Orange, New Jersey, to attempt a canvas which they can use as an anarchistic emblem, provided my inescapably oblique style of work is not insufficiently forceful. Oh, but say I must wait till I have forgotten their emblem of serpents, having lately”

Her breath expired at this point but the reference to serpents and to lately made me aware that, after all, she had not been oblivious to Skates's performance the evening before.

As for her knowing of the Symbionese Liberation Army and its Field Marshal, all I can say is that madness is visionary, since she no longer permits any kind or article of mass media to come into her room.

Just now she has interrupted this entry into the Blue Jay by approaching me on her bare knees with a damp rag and has addressed me as
“mon petit capitain”
(presumably of the S.L.A.) and has begun to bathe my bare feet in warm water. And now she is bending to dry them with her long hair let down.

I had to take a firm hand.

“Stop this foolishness, dear, and get to work on your anarchistic banner.”

“Yes,
mon petit capitain,”
she whispered.

I helped her to her feet and then she made a gesture toward a canvas on an easel and, to my astonishment, there was the beginning of her work on a design for the emblem to replace the snakes, in her “oblique” style but with touches of orange and pink and red.

It had already the oblique suggestion of an artist committed to a spirit of revolution but waiting for God and time.

I am back into the Blue Jay but aware that Moise has admitted the pair of men with the box cameras to the room and in their dark and beautifully tailored mohairs they are moving about to photograph her new canvas in its initial stage. The room is full of faint whispers and equally faint clickings and outside is also a faint sound of Jack Frost dissolving his etching on the window through which comes the faintness of late winter afternoon light.

A glimmer of light refracted from the remarkably large crystal lens of a box camera has made me lift my eyes, and now once again I have to record a bizarre distraction and one of such an agreeable nature that I suspect that I will not continue this day's work much longer.

When I looked up I observed that the younger of the two men with the fantastic box cameras was looking directly at me, his eyes containing a very blue and open declaration of love. Naturally I returned it, it would have been completely impossible not to. But he is apparently shy and the instant that I answered his look of love with my own he turned his back to me and I observed a very interesting thing. He had removed his jacket and I observed that his shoulders are twice the breadth of his hips and that the silky dark mohair of his trouser-legs adheres to his upper thighs as closely as paint to canvas and I also observed that his hair is not prematurely white but a very pale natural gold.

It will soon be dark in the room and I wonder if the boldness that makes my heart slap a beat will somehow manage to exorcise his timidity, his Northern but elegant restraint, and whether or not in answer to that question, to me a question of almost suffocating excitement, three more faint sounds in close but not hurried succession are heard in the world of Moise: the click of a box with a square crystal eye, a click of frost on the window, and from Moise a whisper.

“I do believe we all belong in this room.”

“Thank you, yes,” said the man who'd removed his jacket and folded it neatly as a jacket at the Brothers Brooks and placed it beside her tealess tea things on the box next to her bed.

“Not me but God,” said Moise in a tone that might be described as one of ineffable sweetness, phrase by courtesy of countless Victorian pen-pushers.

She drew a breath and continued, “I think He knows that the violence of reason must wait upon the soft annealments of love, at least till”

She did not complete this whisper, and, looking up again, I could see why she didn't. It was a case of turning from expression to action. She had crawled on her knees to the cameraman who still had on his jacket and with her delicate artists fingers she was removing his trousers. To be more exact about it, she was loosening the waistband of his trousers while her other hand reached behind her beneath her surprisingly wide bed and drew from beneath it a jar that contained a bit of petroleum jelly, which divine providence would soon replace with a full one.

Of course I diverted my eyes from the ecstasy of Moise to the object of my own, yes, indeed, to the jacketless cameraman, and I observed that he was now standing in tall profile to me, his back to Moise and his partner.

This position in profile, the tallness of it with delicate gleams here and there, almost broke my heart, but he repaired this almost-heartbreak with a very slight up and down motion of his head which I have chosen to mean a soundless assent, like that of a timid bride, before a marriage altar.

It isn't yet dark in the room but dim and dimmer and all that I hear now are the footsteps of a giant being, as hushed as they are gigantic, footsteps of the Great Unknown One approaching our world of reason or unreason, you name it as you conceive it. And now

The last Blue Jay is completed.

Copyright © 1975 by Tennessee Williams

All rights reserved. Except for brief passages quoted in a newspaper, magazine, radio, television, or website review, no part of this book may be reproduced in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying and recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the Publisher.

Moise and the World of Reason
, by Tennessee Williams, is published by special arrangement with the University of the South, Sewanee, Tennessee.

Manufactured in the United States of America
First published as a New Directions Paperbook in 2016

eISBN 9780811225625

New Directions Books are published for James Laughlin
by New Directions Publishing Corporation
80 Eighth Avenue, New York 10011

BOOK: Moise and the World of Reason
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