I Felt Like An Amputated Leg

He looked about as
inconspicuous as a
tarantula on a slice
of angel food. He
stood like a statue,
and after a long
time he smiled.
He had a battered
face that looked
like it had been
hit by everything
but the bucket of
a dragline. He spoke
almost dreamily, as
if he was all by him-
self, out in the woods,
picking johnny-jump-
ups. He looked like
a man who could
take a bank single-
handed – even in
those clothes. Just
folded, like a hand-
kerchief or a hinge.
The green stone in
his stickpin was not
quite as large as an
apple. It was him all
right, taken in a strong
light, and looking as
if he had no more
eyebrows than a
French roll. His blond
hair was arranged, by
art or nature, in three
precise ledges,
which reminded me
of steps, so that I
didn’t like them.
He moved away
like a dancer, his
body almost motion-
less from the waist
up. His hair was
dark with blood,
the beautiful blonde
ledges were tangled
with blood and
some thick grayish
ooze, like primeval
slime. There was
a trickle as black
as dirty oil at the
corner of his mouth.
In his coat loose
match folders, a
gold pencil clipped
to a pocket, & two
thin cambric
handkerchiefs as
fine and white
as powdered snow.
A face with bone
under the skin,
fine drawn like
a Cremona violin.
He wore a dark
red tie with black
spots on it and
the spots kept
dancing in front
of my eyes. That
a man occasion-
ally smoked a
stick of tea, a
man who looked
as if any touch
of the exotic
would appeal to
him. He was
silent a moment,
as if deciding
something. Give
him enough time
and pay him en-
ough money and
he’ll cure anything
from a jaded hus-
band to a grasshop-
per plague. Men
would sneak in on
him too, big strong
guys that roared like
lions around their
offices and were
all cold mush under
their vests. They
probably sounded
like words. The
sound was like a
hen having hic-
cups. He was a
dark, good-looking
lad, with plenty
of shoulders and
shiny smooth
hair and the peak
on his rakish cap
made a soft sha-
dow over his eyes.
He had a cigar-
ette in the corner
of his mouth
and he held his
head tilted a little,
as if he liked to
keep the smoke
out of his nose.
It was the kind
of carelessness
that was meant
to be noticed. He
was so polite I
wanted to carry
him out of the
room to show
my appreciation.
He stood just
inside the corridor
door looking as
if he had been
cast in bronze.
He looked like
a bum. He wore
it about where
a house wears a
weather vane. He
had a big flat face
and a highbridged
fleshy nose that
looked as hard as
the prow of a cruiser.
If he had cleaned up
a little and dressed
in a white night-
gown, he would
have looked like a
very wicked Roman
senator. His skin
was as fresh as a
rose petal. His eye-
brows were coal
black, like the ceiling
and the floor. His
face was as fresh as
an angel’s wing. “He
would photograph
like Isadora Duncan.”
He was sitting with-
out a movement,
his eyes closed, his
head bent forward
a little, as if he had
been asleep for an
hour. Then he sat
like a stone lion
outside the Public
Library. He was
a windblown blossom
of some two hundred
pounds with freckled
teeth and the mellow
voice of a circus
barker. He stood in
front of me splay-
legged, holding my
open wallet in his
hand, making scrat-
ches on the leather,
with his right thumb-
nail, as if he just
liked to spoil things.
He looked like
a waiter in a
beachtown flytrap.
And I had seen
him with an Army
Colt looking like a
toy in his fist, stepping
softly through a broken
door. His smile
was as stiff as a fro-
zen fish. His long
fingers made move-
ments like dying but-
terflies. His words
were coming so fast
they were leapfrogging
themselves. He jerked
as if I had slapped
his face. His eyes were
going over my face
line by line, corpuscle
by corpuscle, like Sherlock
Holmes with his mag-
nifying glass or Thorn-
dyke with his pocket
lens. And after all
his psychic racket
is a temporary racket
for any one place.
He came back softly,
holding his pork
pie under his arm,
debonair as a French
count in a college
play. He was waiting
for something, a
sound like nothing
else on earth. He
had small, hungry,
heavy-lidded eyes,
as restless as fleas.
His face changed
so completely that
it was as if another
man sat in his chair.
His face still looked
like a stone face.
At the end he
thought and then
spoke slowly and
what he said had
wisps of fog cling-
ing to it, like the
beads on a mous-
tache. His yellow
eyes lighted as if
with a new flame.
His hat was pushed
back on his black
curly hair and his
nose sniffed, like
the nose of a hunt-
ing dog. He puffed
his cigarette awk-
wardly, as if it was
too small for his
fingers to hold
with comfort.

after Raymond Chandler