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Oliver Benjamin                            
Normally when the man came over alone, he and his mother
would disappear into the bedroom and emerge quite a bit later, red
in the face. Yak didn’t watch television or read contemporary
literature and so knew little of the actual practice of sex. His mother
was a devout Catholic and saw his innocence as a virtue, a virtue she
did not practice herself, but one which she revered in her saintly son.
One day the man came to visit with his wife, a beautiful but
severely-painted older woman. Apparently a miracle had occurred in
her life. Despite her advanced age and a history of infertility, she had
finally given birth to a healthy child.
Yak had never seen anything quite like it before. As the woman
nursed the baby, he stood in front of her and his thoughts spun
ardently. Was this creature new, or was it as old as the world itself?
The embarrassed lady didn’t know what to do. He was staring
indecently at the baby and her breast.
“Can I try that?” Yak said finally. The room fell silent.
“Can you try what?” she said, taken aback.
Yak unbuttoned his shirt and they all laughed.
“My son,” Anna Po said, “He is a little angel. An innocent little
The woman handed the baby to Yak and she fell asleep against
his chest. He had never touched anything so outrageously beautiful
in his life.
He spent the next three days writing about the baby, imagining
its thoughts, merging them with his own. Something opened up
inside him then—a latent organ, a reanimated appendix.
From then on, the man stopped coming by alone and Yak noticed
a sea-change come over his mother. She grew sullen and mercurial
and sobbed long and often. She went on wild gambling sprees and
took up drink. Yak did not know what to do to help her. He did not
have any idea how to help people. On her worst days, Yak found
himself forced to leave the house in order to write. She hurled curses
at his back as he left, begged for his forgiveness when he returned.
Sometimes he would visit the Buntings himself in order to spend
time with the little girl. It was not his delusion: her beauty was
astonishing. And unlike other babies, this one never cried, though
silent tears often overflowed and poured down her cheeks.
“Lily,” Yak would speak her name to her regularly, like a mantra.
One day Yak came back from the Bunting’s house to find his
mother asleep on the living-room sofa with a wet rag over her eyes.
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