Toward Assyria in the East

She was washing dishes when the bull came up and looked in her window. It had seemed small enough when it first appeared, a red dot against the sky like the afterimage of the sun, but when it was trampling her rhododendrons, it had to duck its head to look at her through the second-story window. It was the bright color of new blood. Her window was open; its breath came steaming through, heavy with pepper and almonds and cinnamon. For a few minutes they stood like that, breathing at each other, a coffee cup dangling forgotten from her finger. It made a noise like a flank of cellos.

She held her hands up in front of her face, palms outward, shaking her head. “No,” she said. “You’re not real. You don’t exist. Go away, would you? I’m not talking to you.”

Again the cellos.

“Beat it!”

The bull opened its mouth wide and let her look down the long fleshy tunnel of its mouth. A man’s head popped up over the edge of the tongue, wild-haired and goggled. “Helen, come on, there’s things to do,” her father said.

“Aaargh,” she said, and wriggled her way out the window and onto the springy surface of the bull’s mouth. The bull stepped up into the sky, and her father disappeared back down the ladder. Behind them the dishes sat half-washed in cooling, greasy dishwater.