The Art of Tetman Callis The Sun Neither Rises Nor Sets

The Sun Neither Rises Nor Sets

First published by Mannequinhaus in Neon Garden, February 3, 2023. Copyright 2023 by Tetman Callis.

            Summer was turning to fall when Leo and Wendy became lovers. They had known each other for over twenty years and he had loved her every minute of it, his beard now greying and his vision diminishing—she looked to him now just as she had when they first met, and who is to say if such an illusion is a diminishment or an enhancement?

            Late one early autumn afternoon they lay together in warm and gentle embrace on the sofa in Leo’s living room. Wendy wore no shirt; Leo kissed her breasts. Two young men who were her retainers stood off to one side and watched. Leo kissed Wendy’s mouth now, again and again, and she threw up, once and again. The first time, not much, but the second time, a small amount of the vomitus got into Leo’s mouth, and more splattered about. She was very embarrassed and apologetic and sweet.

            Oh, I’m sorry, I’m sorry, she said as she wiped her face with the back of her hand and brushed the vomitus off her skin and Leo’s skin and their clothing and the sofa where they reclined, That’s just this thing that happens, I’m so sorry.

            She always pukes when she kisses, one retainer said.

            One has to be careful, said the other.

            Careful, indeed, said the first. She has a boyfriend, you know.

            I do know, said the other, who nodded at Leo and said, Old man, did you know she has a boyfriend? He is young. There will be trouble.

            I hope there will be no fisticuffs, Leo said, sitting up and turning away from Wendy. I do not think I could hold my own against a young man, but perhaps I can threaten him with all the attorneys I know.

            He may be too young to be impressed with fear of suit, the one retainer said.

            You know how the young are, said the other.

            Wendy, who had said nothing since she apologized, continued to say nothing.

            From outside there came the noise of a car horn honking. Oh, it’s my dear mother, Leo said, She’s come to help me with my plants. Leo stood and went outside, leaving the still-topless Wendy behind with her two retainers, who would help her finish getting cleaned up and help her find her shirt, which had become misplaced.

            Maybe it’s fallen behind the sofa, one retainer said.

            Outside, Leo’s mother, a woman who appeared all but young enough to be Leo’s wife, waited by the family station wagon. Leo said, Are you ready, dear mother?

            His mother smiled and opened the wagon’s tailgate. She and Leo began loading large potted hemp plants into the cargo bay. I’m taking these to work to sun them, Leo said. We have a broad southern exposure at my office, all the attorneys love it, they stand there and bask.

            The plants were tall.

            Careful, Leo said.

            Careful as I can be, Leo’s mother said and she smiled and slid the tallest of the plants into the cargo bay.

            Exactly what happened next Leo didn’t know. He heard a noise that sounded like song and was looking to the house to see if Wendy was coming out when he heard his mother say, Oh, damn!

            Leo turned and looked. The tallest plant was broken at the base of its stem. I’ll get it, I’ll get it, Leo’s mother said and began pulling away most of the broken stem as if that might help, but Leo could tell there was nothing to be done. That plant was going to die.

            From the house—it was song, three voices, Wendy’s and the two retainers. It was muffled and Leo could barely make it out.

            Mother, that song, do you hear, is it John Barleycorn?

            His mother smiled and said, Leo, you know I never could carry a tune.

            Leo and his mother finished loading the plants into the station wagon and closed the wagon’s tailgate. The sound of song continued from the house. Down the street a young man, thin as a switch and with his fists balled, hurried toward them. The western horizon, which was ever slowly moving up, began to eclipse the sun.