Today Mr. Rufo died. During a game of bocce ball, he leaned on his friend's shoulder and died. Just five minutes before we found out, Jon and I had been walking with our dumb, bourgeois fruit smoothies, and we stopped by a bush that had all these purple flowers bursting out of it, and I said, Look how the dead flowers are a darker purple, a bluish blackish purple and the live flowers are magenta. Do you think the dead flowers used to be magenta, or did all the darker purple flowers die first? (The dead flowers crumpled closed like soggy paper umbrellas, while the live ones stretched open, each like a child's hand reaching—) Afterwards, all the family came and assembled and sat outside together on the patio. For days, I did not see Mrs. Rufo. She must have been inside the house all that time. Meanwhile a big yellow garden spider built his web above the plot of dirt and weeds and wildish plants that's just beside their outside staircase. It's true that spiders are noiseless, I realized, watching the spider in its nonstop industry, listening to the spider. All of us have read "A noiseless patient spider…" but to hear, really, that absence of sound is something altogether different. Because the soundlessness is transparent and shaped like a geometric plane. It casts a silent white shadow that's bigger than the spider is big, and when the spider dies, the silence that replaces its silence is bigger than the spider's silence was big.
I'm writing to you from the loneliest, most secluded island in the world. I mean, the farthest away place from anything else. There are so many fruits here growing on trees or on vines that wrap and wrap. Fruits like I've never seen except the bananas. All night the abandoned dogs howled. I wonder if one dog gives the first howl, and if they take turns who's first like carrying the flag in school. Carrying the flag way out in front and the others following along behind in two long lines, pairs holding hands. Also the roosters here crow from 4am onward. They're still crowing right now and it's almost noon here on the island. Noon stares back no matter where you are. Today I'm going to hike to the extinct volcano and balance on the rim of the crater. Yesterday a gust almost blew me inside. I heard that the black widows live inside the volcano far down below in the high grasses that you can't see from the rim. Well, I was going to tell you that this morning the bells rang and I followed them and at the source of the bells, there I found so many animals all gathered together in a room with carved wooden statues and wooden benches and low wooden slats for kneeling. And the animals were there singing together, all their voices singing, with big strong voices rising from even the filthiest animals. I mean, I've seen animals come together and sing before, except in high fancy vaults where bits of colored glass are pieced together into stories. Some days I want to sing with them. I wish more animals sang together all the time. But then I can't sing sometimes because I think of the news that happens when the animals stop singing. And then I think of all the medications and their side effects that are advertised between the pieces of news. And then I think of all the money the drug companies spent to videotape their photogenic, well-groomed animals, and all the money they spent to buy a prime-time spot, and I think, what money buys the news, and what news creates the drugs, and what drugs control the animals, and I get so choked I can't sing anymore, Lonely Animal. I can't sing with the other animals. Because it's hard to know what an animal will do when it stops singing. It's complicated, you know, it's just complicated—