Around Choo and Cream, or somewhere between their bodies, hung a nearly transparent child who clapped its hands not out of glee or approval, but because of the awkward way its body was hanging, its hands dangling and getting caught sometimes on various cavities of the gaping boots of Choo and Cream.
Clapping, the child often accompanied Choo and Cream when the two did their food shopping. They loved picking over packages of meat for flesh that felt heavier than the weight printed on labels. Yet the child refused to eat the steaks they weighed, so Choo and Cream decided that the child should eat nothing.
But the child was still possessed of energy, like a purse full of money or stolen rings.
The thin, practically lame child felt alive and dangerous to Choo and Cream, and was therefore a liability, as if at any moment the child might scream its own name at passersby, forcing them to hear its terrible voice in places domesticated for purposes of quiet consumption.
Such places were there to police, and the police were Choo and Cream.
The child had appeared one day around the waist of Cream, its face agape with need. The child's face had not been clean.
In a nearby box, a rotating blade distributed hot air around the child's face. Its eyes and mouth did not seem to matter much at all, Cream thought. Choo thought of a ladder of impressive length. Climbing the ladder, Choo imagined never looking down to see Cream and the child disappearing, too small to ever be seen again.
Pursuing a speeding driver, Choo and Cream stomped and kicked, trying to push off from their bodies into a leap past speed. There was space for the child in the front seat of the cruiser, but usually, pushed or forgotten, the child slipped down, wrapping around the thick lower extremes of Choo and Cream.
Yet, just as they were about to leave their bodies—to do something drastic to the driver—they would feel the weight of the child around their feet, holding them to mere speed.
The child was allowed to drink the bean milk Choo and Cream purchased from the discount grocery. This made Choo and Cream feel generous and aloof, for even to go into the discount grocery meant smelling the gluey, wrinkled fruits that grew in lascivious wetness and disgrace. Who were these people? What did their nosey languages mean? Choo and Cream hated to go into the place, but the bean milk there was cheapest, and the people who sold it, cowed by Choo and Cream's matching blue jumpsuits and black boots, did not even look at the child's freakish gait.
It's like these stupid people can't even mate, thought Choo and Cream simultaneously, and winked at the shopkeeper's daughter, or was she the wife? Choo and Cream laughed—it was so much fun not knowing. Here it didn't matter which she was; here she was both.
Choo and Cream always left the discount grocery feeling beyond reproach, with several gallons of the cheapest bean milk. To watch the child drink it disgusted them.
It wasn't the child's neck, but some other stickiness that held Choo and Cream together initially. At first, being together had been a form of rest: each had to think less, though there was more to see. What interested Choo came to interest Cream, and what Cream liked to see, Choo had to see, too, and soon there were so many places to be, and so many priorities.
When Choo joined the local fighting committee, Cream joined simultaneously.
As fighters, Choo and Cream moved like different views of the same fist. There were always many things to be fighting, especially the immense ledge jutting from the mountain far beyond town. Since it was predicted that one day the ledge would fall, nothing had been built beneath it. Yet time passed the ledge intact from one day to the next, and the ledge was resented, thought haughty and manipulative. The ledge had human aspects to it—especially at sunset, when it was lit from behind—such as how it sagged almost into the shape of a face, but an ugly one, making it easier to target, hitting it less of a regret.
The ledge—the child looked like it. Wrapping around Cream in a strangulation dream, the child was pure fear at first, and very difficult to eradicate chemically, though Cream tried drinking many things of strong and difficult potencies.
But the child's neck was so strong; its snaky shape insisted on growing something resembling a head, then arms and legs began dangling from Cream, which Cream found so embarrassing since the arms soon had hands that grabbed from between Cream's legs at things Cream didn't even want or need. The child was a thief! At night the child would fall asleep suckling Cream's body, which Choo no longer wanted to touch, yet with the child lying between them, connecting them, Choo had to feel so much.
Out in the yard, the child was holding a nostril to the end of the hose, gulping at the dark airlessness of outer space, which the child had seen in a movie about toys. But none of the toys had been able to see what was really happening: nothing. Nothing was happening, and this nothingness was immense—far larger than the boy who sometimes played with the toys by pushing them to the fence, but never beyond the fence. The child hated the fence. The child could see that really everything was drowning in the sky. Nothing, not even the cloud that crossed the child's eyes, could keep anybody alive.
Gulping at what stars were lost in, the child tried to keep its clothes dry so that Choo and Cream would not be disappointed to find that the child had died.
But Choo came too soon to the rescue: Choo came to grill a steak and found the child pooled in a dark fold of its wet clothes, water dripping from its otherwise runny nose.
One night, wanting to watch the child sleep, Cream opened the closet where the child's mat was kept.
Sprawled on its mat, the child was disastrous. Its eyes couldn't even be kept shut. They moved around by Cream's feet like the bellies of two dead fish, bumping and lazily deflecting each other.
They are useless to each other and to me, thought Cream.
But wasn't there, between its eyes, a little pocket where the child could hide? The child could feel it—a warm border between seeing and the memory of a thing seen: a place between the upholsteries of Choo and Cream into which the child was slipping—and could almost breathe. The child could almost leave its body through a sneeze.
The child was playing a game: it was lying on its face, refusing to move from its mat. I hope you decide to go soon, Choo said. Already Choo and Cream were late to make the arrest, but finally they did it: Cream put on the cuffs and Choo carried the child into the cruiser. Immediately the child lay its face against the seat and played at being unable to live.
Through the windshield Choo looked at how small the child really was, how small and distressingly easy to see.