Tibor watched the evening change clothes about him, saw the landscape divide and depart, up and down, dark. How did it go, that desolate little poem? It was Rilke's "Abend":
Der Abend wechselt langsam die Gewänder,
die ihm ein Rand von alten Bäumen hält,
du schaust:und vor dir scheiden sich die länder,
ein himmelfahrendes und eins, das fällt,
und lassen dich,zu keinem ganz gehörend,
nicht ganz so dunkel wie das Haus, das schweigt,
nicht ganz so sicher Ewiges beschwörend
wie das, was Stern wird jede Nacht und steigt-
und lassen dir (unsäglich zu entwirn)
dein Leben bang und riesenhaft und reifend,
so dass es, bald begrenzt und bald begreifend,
abwechselnd Stein in dir wird und Gestirn.
He knows how I feel, he decided, to none belonging, not so surely promised to eternity as all this, confused, alone, afraid. If I could turn to stone and stars now, I would. The God of Wrath gave me legs and arms. He took them back again. Did that really happen? Yes, it did. I'm sure of it. Why did he give me limbs if I couldn't keep them? Just to hold anything and feel it for a time would be so fine. I thought it was sadistic, but the Christian version is a masochist now that I think of it, a turning upon, oneself of all bad things, which is just as bad in its own way. He loves everybody, democratically, in fact relentlessly. But he created people so that they could not go through life without hurting him. He wanted something painful to love. They're both of them sick. They have to be. How horrible I feel, how worthless. But I still don't want to die. I am afraid to use the bullhorn again, though. Now that it is dark. No telling what might hear it and come now.
Tibor began to weep. The night sounds -- chirps, buzzes, the dry rasping of twigs on bark -- were smothered by his sobs.
There came a jolt and a creak, as an extra weight was added to his cart. Oh god! What's that? he thought. I am totally helpless. I will have to lie here and let it eat me. It is too dark to see where I could even direct the extensor to defend myself. It's somewhere behind me, advancing now --
He felt a cold, moist touch upon his neck, then fur. It came up beside him. It licked his cheek.
"Toby! Toby. . ."
It was the dog the lizards had given him. It had run off earlier, and he had assumed it was on its way back to its former owners. Now he saw the muzzle outlined against the sky, tongue rolling, teeth white, approximating a smile.
"You've stayed with me after all," he said. "I don't have anything to feed you. I hope you found something yourself. Stay with me. Curl up and sleep here beside me. Please. I'll keep talking to you, Toby. Good dog, good dog. . . Sorry I can't pet you. In this light, I might misjudge and crush your skull. Stay, though. Stay. If I make it through the night, he thought. . . if I make it it'll be because of you.
"I'll reward you someday," he promised the dog, who stirred at the emphatic tone of his voice. "I will save your life. If you save mine, if I am alive when help comes -- I promise! If I am still living when you yourself are ever in danger, you will hear a roaring and a rushing, and a rolling, and the brush will churn! Leaves and dust will fly up, and you will know I am on my way, from wherever I am, to aid you! The thunder and violent rolling of my salvation of you will terrify anyone. I will protect you, cherish you, exactly as you are getting me through this night tonight. That is my sacred solemn promise before God Himself."
The dog thumped his tail.