COUNTRY DARK The child, still clad in peacock and patent leather, exited the theatre with the rest of them. Stepping out into the night Cam yielded to responsibility of her one hand. Van took the other. He asked her, inapprehensive, about her modeling career. Cam learned that as far as Ursula was concerned, none of that existed, for the only subject about which Ursula would utter was the birds in Thornwald Park, where she got to go at the whims of the weather. Van responded with his own favorite childhood memory of going to a windmill park. He could only remember the endless distances between himself and the windmills. He had asked his mother, and she could not remember ever having taken him anywhere like that. MISTRESS OF THE DEVIL Cam read the book in her room, having run home with it in a cold sweaty fugue. She opened it under the covers. [..."Valeska Baddenbrook was born in Garnet, Kansas. Her education was to be an unfortunately spare one; The parents, however, lifelong poinsettia farmers, eagerly encouraged daughter Valeska to choose her career as one spent in dance. Thereafter, she studied in Italy with Muriel Isher, at the studio Immortelle. Her time there, however, was to be quite brief—she had no sooner become engaged deeply in scandal with a visiting dignitary, and presumably was to be transported back to stay once more alongside her parents in the fields of Kansas. This did not occur, however. Instead, she would vanish into Italy for a time indeterminate, reemerging finally toward the end of the decade, in California. It was at this time when she would find herself becoming a somewhat minor auxiliary to that state's still-burgeoning video arts industry. In her performances, she would frequently be to star as a girl misfortuned to live only in Haunted houses. It was here that she would meet Ivor Verdi (Verdi playing his Theremin instrument), to whom she would bear one child, Van. His relationship with her began in earnest after the disappearance of his then-wife Glenda. In as far as she was a figure in the entourage he was developing of artists and criminals, Valeska played an apparently peripheral role until a fire consumed their Owens Valley home."...] CAM CAME IN WITH WILD VIOLETS Van mowed the grass, came in and drained the absinthe decanter. He thudded its cedar base into the sink. Cam came in with wild violets. There were no clean dishes. His bacchants shuffled out of study. They revered Van. Van was practiced at responding to worship in ways varied, passive, and grateful. He botched the mowing. The yard still looked like nature. He filled the unclean decanter with a dense ruby fluid. Film-thin lemons and orbs ambulated. An opalescence undulated and splayed, glittering, to the limit of the glass. Cam mimicked the opalescence with her fingers. Van went fluid, most unpracticed. Kari Larsen is the author of Say you're a fiction (Dancing Girl) and the Black Telephone (Unthinkable Creatures). More information on these and other projects can be found at www.cold-rubies.com.