Joe Bisz


[excerpt from World Without End]

Once I read a book about taming wild animals. It had said that the most important thing was that the animal was aware of your presence. This could be done either by walking a circumference and committing no folly until it ignored you, like city dwellers with pigeons; or because you pained it and it feared you, like my neighbor who comments at his dog; or because you always helped it and it loved you and never let go.
      What does it mean for an animal to be wild?
      I think it means, to not know things about us. About people.
      I pour more seed into the newspaper-lined cage. It is not so cold out today, not very dark.
      Does it...want to?
      A bird's eye view of behind our fence would see a tree-trail sneaking, dividing the native face of the backyards until it inflates up darker against the sky, a solitary woods. Mother thinks it’s normal for me to just play in the yard.
      When Mother gets upset because she's on the phone and her parents are telling her she should have gone farther in school or because she cooks dinner badly from not following a direction Father puts his hands behind her shoulders. He used to try the same with me, but I was too afraid. He doesn’t squeeze or anything, but just lays his hands very seriously. Like he's taking her temperature. Or holding a balloon.
      Once a long time ago at school when the advanced reading group got to sleep together I sneaked up too and pretended to snuggle with them like a cat, my body turned away from the teacher but my eyes awake, waiting for their beautiful eyes to open.
      My eyes watch the embankment along the willow's nest. The branch is too far up.
      If the animal cannot understand, then the animal cannot know what it is missing.
      I put my own hand up into the air. Just to see how high it can go.


This piece is a one-page excerpt from my novel WORLD WITHOUT END and is told from the point of view of a twenty-year old woman named Milady who, it is suggested, has some kind of learning disability similar to autism. The theory I was working under was partly the paradox idea of a 'verbal savant', but also the fact that we all live in an autistic universe of sorts. After all, we evolved from animals. She is, of course, very sheltered even though she roams alone the outside world of Manhattan. The novel is unpublished and in the final stages of revision; it will hopefully be sent out soon. Feel free to email me comments.