Fierce Similes Home from
More similes from our friend
Tom Robbins, this time from Fierce Invalids Home from Hot Climates
(2000). As always, only the ones used in narration are included,
although (again, as always) the characters deliver some colorful comparisons
And for this (final?) installment in this
series, my friend Tracy (who initially recommended Tom Robbins and later
wonder about my point here) remains mute like the cute hitchhiker who got
more duct tape and a better look at the inside of my trunk than she could
ever have asked for.
On a personal note, I thought
this was the best-written of his books (that I've read so far). There
are a lot of metaphors that work better than the similes are funny.
The naked parrot looked like a human fetus
spliced onto a kosher chicken.
Butterflies were delicate and gossamer, but
this moth possessed strength and weight. Its heavy wings were powdered
like the face of an old actress.
Even the sheep and goats seemed merry, lighter
of hoof, although individual beasts paused from time to time to shake rainwater
from their coats, vigorously, stiffly, causing them to look like self-conscious
“But, sir,” said the eldest son, wringing
his hands and screwing up his forehead until it looked like the rolled-back
lid of a sardine can, “the horse. We have only these four, you see, and
Her eyes simultaneously narrowed and brightened
until they looked like the apertures through which Tabasco droplets enter
the world, and the zing zing zing of synaptic archery was very nearly audible.
On this drizzly day, the captain wouldn’t
have seen very much. The sky and the water looked like separate panels
of the same chalk-fogged blackboard. Nature had erased the diagrammed sentences
and multiplication tables, leaving a view that was all pan and no orama.
The pupils of his aforementioned fierce, hypnotic
green eyes were so dilated they looked like the burners on a dollhouse
As he requested such dishes as tom kah pug
and pak tud tak, names that routinely sounded like a harelip pleading for
a package of thumbtacks, the tricky tonalities of Thai didn’t faze him.
When he opened the trunk, the parrot, now
fully revived, flew out in his face, wings flapping furiously, and squawking
like the mad conductor on the night train to Hell.
The sun dropped into the horizon line like
a coin dropping into a slot. The ocean bit it to make sure it wasn’t counterfeit.
Saucy and petite, Gloria wore her short hair
in bangs, similar, in fact, to Hector; and her eyes were like chocolate-dipped
cherry bombs with their fuses lit.
Briefly, he entertained a vision of himself
lying on a bearskin rug before the Snoqualmie cabin’s stone fireplace,
the Matisse oil—now his own—pulsating like a blue chromosphere of massive
meaty nudity above the mantel.
There are times when we can feel destiny close
around us like a fist around a doorknob.
Obviously, he knew he had innards, he was
not an imbecile, but so repulsive did he find the idea that his handsome
body might be stuffed like a holiday stocking with slippery, snaky coils
of steaming guts; undulating meat tubes choked with vile green and yellow
biles, vast colonies of bacteria, fetid gases, and gobs of partially digested
foodstuffs, that he blocked the fact from his cognizance, preferring to
pretend that his corporeal cavity—and that of any woman to whom he was
romantically attracted—was powered not by throbbing hunks of slimy, blood-bathed
tissue but by a sort of ball of mystic white light.
It wasn’t a tarantula. Switters was familiar
with tarantulas. No, this living emblem of evolutionary perversity wasn’t
merely hairy, it was sprinkled with purple spots—an armpit with a rash—and
its pupilless white eyes rolled about the brow of its cephalothorax like
mothballs in a lapidary.
A rank of ample black clouds had been double-parked
along the western horizon like limousines at a mobster’s funeral. Rather
suddenly now, they wheeled away from the long green curb and congregated
overhead, where, like overweight yet still athletic Harlem Globetrotters,
they bobbed and weaved, passing lightning bolts trickily among themselves
while the wind whistled “Sweet Georgia Brown.”
The stars were as big and bright as brass
doorknobs, and so numerous they jostled one another for twinkle space.
Because the mosquito population was equally dense, Switters spent the night
rolled up in his netting like a pharaonic burrito, a crash-test mummy who
couldn’t see the stars for his wrapping.
Indeed, if he could believe his teacher, ideal
meditation had no practical application whatsoever. Sure, there were Westerners
who practiced it as a relaxation technique, as a device for calming and
centering themselves so that they might sell more stuff or fare better
in office politics, but that was like using the Hope diamond to scratch
grocery lists onto a bathroom mirror.
On benches of gravel, heavy-lidded caimans
did Robert Mitchum imitations, seeming at once slow and sinister and stoned.
Cabbage-green turtles that must have each weighed as much as a wheelbarrow
load of cabbages slid off of and onto mud banks and rocks, while frogs
of various hues and sizes plopped on every side like fugitives from mutant
The air was like a flexed muscle, the bicep,
perhaps, of some macho swamp thing showing off for a female swamp thing,
green in both cases.
Smithe expelled a globe of smoke, and it bobbed
just above them for a while like an air-feeding jellyfish or a rickety
umbrella, slow to disperse in the cloying humidity.
This precipitated a dueling barrage of rapid-fire
Campa-Spanish that sounded like stormy-night static on Radio Babel.
Indeed, though it was not yet midmorning,
the sun was looking down on them like the bad eye of a billy goat, jaundiced
and shot with blood; and beneath its baleful glare, every living cell in
every living thing seemed to slump like a Dalí watch. Switters felt
his protoplasm turning into dry-cleaning fluid, and his suit, which soon
enough would need a good cleaning, was glued to his body like a poster
to a wall.
His jowls glistened in the heat and humidity
like burst melons.
A weariness moved into his smooth, shiny face
like a retired midwestern farmer moving into a flamingo beach hotel.
Like James Brown, spent, limp, reeling to
the microphone for just one more whoop, Switters momentarily revived himself.
Head bowed, nose pointed at the toes that,
like fans of pink pickles, spread over the tips of his flip-flops, neck
knotted, meaty hands clasped behind his broad back, he paced.
Smithe halted in mid-stride. His chin withdrew
from his chest like a city slicker’s hand from a branding iron.
Just as he squeezed his eyes shut, the better
to picture these anti-aphrodisiacs, R. Potney Smithe extended a forefinger
and jabbed Switters’s half-erect member the way a shy but righteously purposeful
Jehovah’s Witness might press an agnostic’s doorbell.
The aspiring witchman glided noiselessly across
the room, like one of the creatures for whom he seemed to have such affinity,
and looking, in snakeskin cape and Ray-Ban sunglasses, like a Hollywood
In a characteristic gesture, Bobby tossed
a pompadourlike tussock of inky hair out of his eyes while simultaneously
patting down the cowlick that coiled like a busted bedspring farther back
on his head.
Bobby’s face was changing expressions faster
than Clark Kent changed underwear. He went swiftly from astonishment to
relief to annoyance to amusement to imagined comprehension. “Okay. Alrighty.
I get it. Even a maniac like yourself wouldn’t go to all this trouble just
to mock the afflicted or play a cruel joke on your ol’ podner. So’s I reckon
you’re fixing to go deep cover, and you’ll be trying to convince some alleged
bad guys somewhere that you’ve been crippled by the forces of imperialism.
The CIA and Actors Studio: telling them apart has never been simple. Did
you know Mata Hari’s real name was Gertrude? But hey! Anyway. I’m gladder
than shit you’re not actually stoved in ‘cause I was hoping we could hit
a dance club or two this evening.”
Bobby sucked on his beer bottle like a tot
on a lollipop or a tout on a pencil.
Like chip dip with a short shelf life, the
imported Scandinavian sunshine had commenced to degenerate, reverting to
the cod paste from which it was synthesized.
Scud blew by close to the surface of the sound
like dank puffballs of bacterial fuzz, and the men could almost taste mildew
in the air. The atmosphere was leaden and thin simultaneously, as if composed
of some new element that defied known laws of atomic weight and could be
properly breathed only by lifelong residents of the Pacific Northwest.
Feathery and innocuous on one hand, sodden and ill-willed on the other,
it was the meteorological equivalent of Pat Boone singing heavy metal.
The big blue nude rose like a mountain range,
an azure Appalachia of loaves, humps, and knobs, a topographical maquette
constructed from huckleberry jelly, a curvaceous cobalt upland where clumps
of wild asters clung precariously to the hillsides and the bluebirds all
“In that case,” said Switters, feeling like
the vice president at a Senate deadlock, “I cast my deciding vote for Pee-wee’s
Big Adventure. Now come on home.”
When, at about six o’clock, she came down
the hall to his room with a can of Pepsi and a plate of brownies, came
in her school uniform (pleated blue skirt and loose white blouse), came
with her tiny gold crucifix twinkling like an eastern star above the twin
mosques of her breasts (my, how they’d grown! that old training bra couldn’t
begin to corral them now), came with her round rump ticking like two casseroles
in an oven, came with her smart smile and guileless gaze, he could sense
the want spreading throughout his organism like a cotton-candy cancer,
and his mania once more had the wind to its back.
Yet, like a model threatened with loss of
employment, he held the pose.
He sighed again, massaged his arms, and, like
a railyard dick chasing hobos off a flatcar, swept the beans of sweat from
Whatever that little bastard Brian might be
doing to her (or she to him), she still smelled like the punch line in
a nursery rhyme.
She had just slid onto his lap and was tightening
her tawny arms around his neck, her tongue muscles quivering like the hamstrings
of a cheetah about to spring from its lair, when his mother made one of
her periodic checks of the room.
She watched an odd, ironic smile bend his
lower lip like a bartender twisting a peel of lemon.
As Switters read, then read again, the preceding
two paragraphs, his forefinger hovered over the delete key like the meatless
digit of the Reaper pausing above his black eraser.
Yet, here he was, a fever flaming in his veins,
a thunder in his pulses; his lungs ballooning, then deflating, his thoughts
all over the map like a fast-food chain.
Then, perched on the edge of the bed like
a stone cherub urinating into a fish pond, it occurred to him that music
wasn’t the issue.
Again and again, his mouth formed her name,
but the sound stuck in his throat like a fake Santa in a crooked chimney.
But like a miser making a night deposit at
an inner city bank, she leaned over with a kind of fearful glee and planted
a peck perilously close to his pucker.
Like every smoke ring ever blown—like smoke,
in general—it bounced in the air like the bastard baby of chemistry and
Like some beggar or street performer, he would
dock the wheelchair beneath the aged arcades of the labyrinthine Pike Place
Market, and there, in the grotto light, protected from the rains that pounded
the cobblestones and hissed beneath the tires of delivery trucks, he’d
turn a keen eye on whiskered parsnip and hairless apple, and bathe himself
in the multitudes.
Not infrequently, he’d spot one of them in
the market again and exchange with her one of those futilely desirous smiles
that are like domestic postage on a letter to a foreign destination.
When she unhooked her bra, it was like a farmer
unloading a cart, and when she pulled down her panties, Switters thought
he was back up the Amazon.
Dev’s pubic mound was like the hut of a shaman.
Fruit flies picnicked on her thighs.
The sky went blue on them, the sun bounded
on stage like a cut-rate comedian who doubled as his own spotlight, and
within a day the market streets and gutters were as dry as rye.
The air had become like cotton candy, spun
not from sugar but the sex glands of meadowlarks and dry white wine.
When he ventured out of a morning, freshly
if resentfully groomed, yet bearing Dev’s funky signature like a laundry
mark on a shirt, Switters left his topcoat at home.
Thrilled by the strange implications of such
questions and at the same moment embarrassed by them, he examined them
repeatedly but sheepishly, like a forensic scientist sorting a collection
of crime-scene lingerie. These private musings occurred mainly in public—on
sun-smeared corners, in shadowed archways, or beneath the great cartoonish
market clock—where the murmuring of unsuspecting throngs washed over him,
and Florida grapefruit and Arizona melons, like the popped orbs of Buick-sized
frogs, watched him without blinking.
She threatened to cane-whip the tightwad who
might try to move her into an efficiency apartment and gun down like a
landfill rat the Nazi who would plant her in a nursing home (Switters and
Foxweather exchanged glances that indicated they both knew the old lady
wasn’t joking), and home care was not inexpensive.
Owing nothing to society, expecting nothing,
the painting bumped against the brain like a cloud against an oil derrick.
It had the innocence and brute force of a dream.
The land spread out before him like a pizza.
Its topography was flat, its texture rough, its temperature hot, its hue
reddish yellow, studded with pepperoni-colored rocks; and, at the moment,
it glistened as if drizzled with olive oil.
Switters’s Adam’s apple flopped in his throat
like an eel in a creel.
The boat, flaring in the distance like a millionaire’s
teeth, belonged to Sol Glissant, a Beirut-based French national who had
made a chunk of his fortune rebuilding Lebanon’s swimming pools after the
war and was known as the Pool Pasha of the Levant.
This was due to the fact that he would be
needing his wits about him, but also because the last time he’d had his
fill of the bubbly, he’d gazed into Anna’s face and told her that her eyes
were like a morning mist on the fur of a squirrel. Or something along those
The wind was already escalating, and between
the darkened yacht and the rocky shore there was considerable chop, but
Skeeter slid over the crests and attacked the troughs as if mastering a
difficult composition by Thelonius Monk.
Surrounded on all sides by an immense silence,
the only sound he heard beyond his own shallow gasps was sand crackling
beneath his wheels and thorny weeds brushing against the spokes like a
tone-deaf witch trying to pluck a banjo.
Theirs was not the Sol Glissant swimming-pool
blue of Suzy’s eyes, however, but a sapphire blue, almost an anthracite
blue, as if hardened into being by millions of pounds of chthonian thrust.
It sat there, almost loomed there, like a
mud ship becalmed in a rusty bay. Its contours, its lines, were simple
but sensuous, organic but intrusive, utilitarian to a fundamental degree
yet somehow oddly fanciful, like a collaboration between Antoni Gaudí
and a termite colony.
The sweat drops on his brow were like tadpoles.
They migrated down his neck as if in search of a pond. Still, he didn’t
care. A night such as this was worth anything! His aching only gave pitch
to its beauty.
Moonlight enveloped him like a clown suit—voluminous,
chalky, theatrical—into which he was buttoned with fuzzy red pompons of
Another time, he was sure he heard female
voices, cautious but caring, and sensed that figures were gathered around
him like the ghosts of dead Girl Scouts around a spectral weenie roast.
He uncovered his face in time to see the moon
spin into view like a salt-encrusted pinwheel.
He tried meowing once or twice, but it hurt
his gums, which were swollen, and his throat, which felt like a scabbard
two sizes too small for its sword.
In any event, after a week of pain, fever,
nausea, coma, and phantasmagorical rapture, his lids sprang open one morning
like mousetraps in reverse, and he found himself, feeble yet curiously
refreshed, upon a low cot in the tiny, blue-walled room that served the
convent/oasis as a rudimentary infirmary.
Around her eyes the skin looked as if it had
been trampled by sparrows, a tracing that caused him to put her age at
In shadow, Domino’s hair was dark brown; in
sunlight, reddish tints shone through in streaks, like claw marks on fine
Like the helmeted heads of an itty-bitty army
springing from the trenches, goosebumps appeared along the length and breadth
of Switters’s epidermis, where they marched in place, as if, intent on
pillage, they were preparing to advance on his brain.
Domino shook her head, causing her cheeks
to wobble like puddings on a pushcart.
After all, she was a woman who could ferry
the chamber pots of the sick, whereas he thought of the rectum, on those
very rare occasions when he thought of it at all, as a receptacle for white
light, the intake valve through which that mystic energy that Bobby Case’s
wise ol’ boys called kundalini entered the body to slither up the spinal
column in radiant coils, like the Serpent bringing divine knowledge to
the unsuspecting bumpkins of Eden.
She smiled, and it was, he thought, like a
cross between the Taj Mahal and a jukebox.
He was like a puncture in a high-pressure
hose, spurting in all directions, spuming with an irrepressible puissance.
With Pippi and Domino holding the superstilts
steady, he climbed aboard—and for a few breathtaking seconds, he jiggled,
tilted, leaned, and swayed in slow motion, like a dynamited tower so in
love with gravity it couldn’t decide which way to fall.
It was so much like a one-man circus parade
that he had little choice but to break into a booming, up-tempo rendition
of “Send in the Clowns.”
By the time Switters relinquished the stilts,
dusk was settling onto the oasis like a purple hairnet through which a
few stray strands of blondish daylight curled.
The telling took the better part of an hour,
and when at last he slapped his now permanently soiled trouser legs as
if to punctuate the end of the story, Domino seemed, well, not so much
perplexed as hypnotized, not so much stunned as drunk, her customary radiance
restored, even intensified, like the sultan’s chronically sick wife who
was miraculously restored to health by the stinking beggar’s fairy tales.
A ruby droplet, at once as authentic as blood
and as artificial as a bauble of carnival paste, glistened on her upper
lip like an Aphrodite love boil, and Switters felt a bewildering urge to
expunge it with his tongue.
An image of Suzy went zinging through his
brain like a hot pink bullet.
Still, there was something comical about him,
like a crow blundering across a pavement grate or a boy in his mother’s
Even as she stood stationary, the wart appeared
to shudder, like the tiny heart of a shrew, and to radiate, as if a fungus
that grew on raw uranium was practicing for fission. Simultaneously feathery
and lumpish, like a squashed raspberry, a pinch of dry snuff, a tuft of
moss that a wounded robin had bled upon, or the butt end of an exploded
firecracker, it caught the candlelight and in so doing, seemed to enlarge
before his eyes.
The really astonishing feature of the protuberance
was neither its size nor its color, its brim nor its woof, but the fact,
not immediately registered, that it was two-tiered: a second, smaller wart
sat atop the first, piggybacking, as it were, like a pencil eraser with
a spinal hump, or a little foam-rubber pagoda.
She shook her head. The wart, like a plug
of hairy gelatin, shook with it.
Switters was relieved to find Masked Beauty
alone, that she wore her veil (the wart having struck him as pathological),
and that her quarters were once again clouded with incense: he’d awakened
too late to bathe properly, and Cupid’s briny chlorines clung to him like
The sun was as red as a baboon’s backside.
Relentless, it rose each and every morning and like a malicious baboon
climbing a staircase, treated those trapped on the ground floor to a rude
Serrated with heat, abuzz with wind-whipped
sand, the air outside the compound was like a bouquet of hacksaws.
The pace inside the oasis was slow, and summer
seemed to drone on like a filibuster, even to Switters, who was one of
those who believed that time in general was gathering speed.
He tried to compare it to the third eye of
an Asian saint, but the wart was as blind as a mole rat and twice as ugly.
Both repelling and compelling, it was charged with the grisly charisma
of a serial killer. In its globby piled-on redness, it was a scarlet letter
embroidered by an obsessive compulsive. And it was too damn vivid.
Something brighter than blood sang in his
arteries. It climbed up his spine like the high notes of an anthem, clarifying
his lungs, teasing his muscles and making them brisk. It wasn’t a syrup
of wahoo, really: it wasn’t pure enough for that. Mostly, it was good old
retro primal adrenaline, concocted in the fight-or-flight kitchen, the
reptile house of the brain. But there were drops of wahoo in it.
A ray of moonlight striking her double-decker
wart made the growth resemble a dab of ketchup-coated curds. Cottage cheese
with ketchup, he thought. Richard Nixon’s favorite meal. Probably got the
recipe from John Foster Dulles. Patooie!
Outside, a rooster crowed. It sounded like
a spastic adolescent trying to imitate Tarzan.
Her nipples pushed against the cotton like
urchins pressing their noses against a candy store window. In the candleshine,
her pubis was faintly outlined, like a map of a phantom peninsula.
Before either of them could prepare for it,
she stepped to his wheelchair, bent over—loose breasts bobbing like turtles
on a buckboard, hair swinging around to eclipse her moonish cheeks—and
kissed him quite emphatically on the bridge of his nose.
Oh, well, he thought, these might be fun for
a change, so he stork-walked to the office on stilts that put his unbreakfasted
mouth at fig level, higher than the ripe lemons that dangled from their
branches like bare lightbulbs in a nineteenth-century shoe factory.
Generally, Bob appeared as if she’d been sired
by one of the Marx Brothers—perhaps all four—and now she was alternating
between looks of sheepish contrition, like Harpo after striking a sour
note on his instrument of choice; popeyed incredulity, like Chico watching
the diva disgorge the aria in A Night at the Opera; waggy disgust, like
Groucho learning that his best jokes had once again been eviscerated by
network censors; and peevish indignation, like Zeppo sensing that it was
his fate to be perpetually upstaged by his three siblings.
Whatever the proximities, and no matter what
it was called in Basque, Switters’s rod of engenderment was growing more
rigid, more perpendicular, by the moment; was behaving, in fact, like a
hydraulic jack, threatening, he imagined, to lift him right off her, suspending
him above her prone body as if he were a plate on a shaft, a bobbin balanced
on a spindle.
Gasping slightly from the effort, he lay there
beside her with his feet in the air, looking like an advertisement for
an aerosol insecticide. (Of course, a dead bug wouldn’t be sporting an
erection. Or would it? Hanged men are reputed to be so affected, why not
a zapped beetle? Perhaps there was a reason why they were called “cockroaches.”
And think of the Spanish fly.)
For the nearly ten minutes that it took Bob
to return with the chair, he lay there like a yogi in the dead-bug asana,
growing slowly flaccid; shielding his eyes from the pulsating radiation
of a sun, now directly overhead, that resembled a phoenix egg laid in a
campfire and impaled on a laser; and talking to his abnormally elevated
Their lone conversation during this period
concerned the round, mud tower that rose above the compound like a silo
for a Scud of manna, a missile with a warhead of milk and honey.
Switters could detect her face darkening (the
wart set against it like Mars against a thick winter sky) as he read to
her from the monitor how Plato had learned of the gold tablets, the Hermetic
Writings so-called, and had made a pilgrimage to study them, but was prevented
by the prevailing Egyptian ruler from entering the pyramids.
For a split second, tiny burrs and shards
of steel whizzed angrily in all directions, like metallic bees in a bug
He swung the grin like a searchlight, narrowing
its beam on Domino.
Domino squeezed his hand and folded against
him, moving in his arms like a pendulum moving in a grandfather clock.
Looking at it from another angle, their kiss
was like a paper airplane landing on the moon.
The first night that they met in the tower
and lay on the rug (Switters never dared to test that floor with his feet),
admiring a moon that looked as if it had been oiled by a Kurdish rifleman
and pointing at the satellites that skittered from sky-edge to sky-edge
like waterbugs crossing a cow creek, Domino confessed, with a minimum of
embarrassment and no shame at all, that she had “a big crash” on him.
Only her wart seemed unchanged and unaffected,
a clod of red mud from the mean fields of Mars.
There, he rolled onto the carpet, propped
his feet on a cylindrical pillow, and, watching the stars slide by like
lighted portholes in a luxury liner, awaited Domino’s arrival.
Naked, she lay sprawled on her side like a
(The squish of the jelly. The socket that
formed around his finger. The suction of the mouth that never eats. The
flutter of the lashless eye. A pink noise that traveled up the spine like
the whistle of a toy train. A troll burrow commandeered for a royal wedding.
The bride stripped bare by her bachelors, even. The groom, in purple helmet,
yet to arrive.)
Had he heard them related by a starry-eyed
ten-year-old Portuguese peasant girl in 1917, they might possibly have
spun the propeller on his intellectual beanie, but now he just stretched
and sighed like a hockey coach at a tea dance before proceeding to the
ballyhooed main event: that legendary ultrasecret time-release pope onion,
Chickpea in his mouth, dry heat in his nostrils,
papery leaf rustle and narcotic hen cluck in his ears, grainy wind on his
skin, distant shimmer (like a flutter of god beards, a pulse of muslin-wrapped
phosphorus) in his eyes, thirst never far from his throat: it was, in terms
of the senses, a perfect situation in which to try to summon his faint
knowledge of that series of writings (like the Bible, it was a disjointed,
fragmented collection rather than a unified canon) known as the Corpus
Hermeticism had its merits, certainly, but
it lacked immediacy. It seemed so stereotypically occult as to be fusty
and inane, like the wizard hat that Mickey Mouse wore when he played the
However, this circuitous reminiscing about
the witchman had brought his image fully to mind, and, abruptly, at that
instant—wham! bam!—a thought hit Switters like a stockyard paddle smacking
a porker’s backside.
Had it not been so abrupt, she probably wouldn’t
have cried, but she had no time to prepare herself, and teardrops, one
after the other, rolled like dead bees down the overturned hives of her
cheeks as she explained to the astonished driver that the white-suited
male (A man? Here?) in the wheelchair would be needing passage to Deir
She made a little furrow in her chin, which
the tear runoff filled like rainwater in a ditch.
She wore her veil, of course, but he could
detect her beauty-buster behind it, glowing like a holographic hush puppy,
a glob of ghost grease in the morning sun.
During the long, rough drive—east-northeast
to Deir ez-Zur (where they passed the night), south-southwest to Palmyra
(where they again slept over), and on southwestward to the capital—Switters
was compressed like anchovy paste in a living sandwich.
Dimly lit by a pair of raw forty-watt bulbs
that dangled from the stucco ceiling like polished anklebones on strings,
the space smelled of motor oil, solvent, sour metals, musky rubber, and
They must have had loins of fire, pussies
of gold; their libidos must have brayed like wild asses and loomed like
The migraine shot out of his ears like squirt
from a clam.
The younger, thinner one (late thirties, probably,
and lithe as a bean vine) had a face like the instruction sheet that came
with an unassembled toy: it looked simple at first and ordinary and frank,
but the longer you studied it, the more incomprehensible it became.
From the air, the desert appeared a loose,
lumpy weave of red and yellow strands, like a potholder made in the craft
shack at a summer camp for retarded children.
Their quiet conversation in the backseat had
resounded in his ear chip like dialogue in a Verdi opera, and although
his Italian was hardly perfetto, he had scant difficulty in piecing together
There commenced a low voltaic drone, like
Thomas Edison’s spiritual mantra or the romantic humming of ogres in love.
He’d held up his vibrating hands to watch
their hue redden, his fingers already swelling like microwaved frankfurters.
Switters’s back felt like the time clock in
The pope, naturally, was curious about the
augury that had set his predecessor to throwing off tears like an ice sculpture
in a wind tunnel.
Any winged aircraft, from the smallest Cessna
prop puppy to the biggest Boeing behemoth, was a romantic artifact, a swoozy
sculpture, a sailing thing of irresistible appeal; but a helicopter . .
. a helicopter was like a funky old shoetree that a witch had caused to
levitate. Chunky and uncouth, it was as if some weird kid had planted a
homemade whirligig in the fat of a turd.
His answer startled Domino, caught her by
such surprise that after jerking upright, she slowly drooped forward in
her chair, like a sunflower that could no longer bear the weight of its
crown; and for thirty seconds or so, she was so lost in thought that her
orbs were kind of an inky smear. He squeezed her knee (one of those familiarities
in which he rarely anymore indulged) and the eyes winked back on, like
modem lights after a power surge.
Three months after separation from her divine
wad of tissue, Masked Beauty continued to mark its absence by compulsively
rubbing and pulling at her nose, like one of those compassionate zoo apes
that openly toys with its genitals in order to relieve the guilt of visiting
The May moon looked like a bottlecap. More
specifically, entering its last phase, the moon looked like a bottlecap
that a fidgety beer-drinker had squashed double between macho thumb and
forefinger. The moon was making Switters thirsty, and he said as much to
Toufic, but the truck driver wasn’t listening.
But Switters wasn’t in Bangkok, he was in
the Syrian desert, and the May moon, entering its last phase, appeared
folded over on itself like a thin yellow omelet. It was making him hungry,
and he said as much to Toufic, but the truck driver was no longer listening.
Then, cupping his testes in the palm of her
hand, like a farmgirl weighing guinea eggs, she knelt before his Invacare
9000 and gave him a single lick; a long, slow, wet, pedestal to pinnacle
He was stiffer than before, if that was physiologically
possible, and a fever had descended upon him like a satyric malaria.
Her voice, even more than usual, was like
a Red Cross doughnut wagon purring into earshot after a disaster.
Unlidded, it proved to contain a clear broth—but
this being Italy, several meaty tortellinis bobbed in it like fat boys
at the beach.
Both cool and warm, smooth and wavy, the floor
felt like fruit skin. It felt like lettuce. Something invisible and pleasurable
oozed up between his toes.
copyright 2006 Alexplorer. Similes copyright 2000 Tom Robbins.