I had a garden. Not much of one, but in Desnos’s scrabbly yard, between the two large sunken medallions in the ground that had been apparently stolen long ago from a cemetery, I managed to plant flowers, herbs, and even a few rows of carrots, and Louis and I would crawl through the lilacs to our various hiding places, small clearings in the scrub were we could sit, sometimes all night with Desnos’s many friends, drinking and talking and yelling at passersby, and laughing because they could not see us. A favorite target, at least for a while, was Louis’s violently angry neighbor who was always rapping on his ceiling with a broom handle or swearing at us up the stairwell at the top of his lungs. Whenever we saw this man skulking down the rue Blomet we yelled at him from our cover in the bushes, and he would pick up trash and hurl it in our direction, and we threw it back. Louis had uncanny aim though he deliberately never hit the man, but after a few weeks of this back-and-forth Artaud somehow managed to launch multiple objects at the same time, and the veritable wave of refuse hurtling through the air made the blackguard run away. Thereafter he avoided our street.
“Now you’ve ruined our fun,” Louis teased Artaud.
On warm nights, Louis decided to forsake his stifling hotel room to sleep there in the bushes and sometimes I joined him. Artaud, homeless and avoiding his mother’s place, sometimes did this too. I was the largest and the least bony, so “Pillow!” Desnos would yell the minute I got comfortable and flop down with his head on my back or my leg, or my chest if I was on my back. I ended up being a cushion to the prone forms of Artaud and Louis and de la Riviere, and any other lagabouts who intended nothing by it except to rest their heads and be comfortable, but I also became a magnet for that damned Georges Malkine who did mean something else by it. I learned not to lie on my stomach if Malkine was around, for he would place his bony cranium right on my buttocks and exhale cigarette smoke beneath the stars as if after a tryst because he was, or he claimed he was, in love with me. Not even Artaud’s attempt to help me out by placing his own buttocks close to Malkine’s face and farting could dislodge Desnos’s persistent neighbor from my ass. And I would laugh at Artaud’s effort which then jiggled Malkine, rewarding the rotter because he enjoyed it. “Get off!” I yelled at him.
“If you would ignore him,” warned Desnos for the tenth time, “he wouldn’t tease you like this!” He and Malkine were as thick as thieves.
“Oh, Geoff, I love it when you’re angry,” oozed Malkine, and he stayed where he was.
“It’s a good thing I’m too bony,” Artaud sneered, leaning on my back again while Malkine continued to lounge on my ass. To taunt Malkine I rested my hand on Artaud’s knee where Malkine could see it, and Louis laughed at me because this was so out of character for me.
“You don’t fool me, you two,” retorted Malkine. “And you’re not bony, Artaud, you’re…” Malkine paused. “Sinewy. I would lie on you any day, but you won’t let me. But Geoff’s the softest.” He turned on his stomach and leaned his cheek on my buttocks, wrapping his arms around them in a circle above his head. Desnos let out that giggle-snort of his while Artaud and Louis groaned in disgust.
I lifted my head and twisted my neck to glare back at him. “Everyone is soft there, you ponce!”
“Not everyone,” Malkine returned smugly. “Louis Aragon isn’t, for example. He has bony buttocks. Very bony and uncomfortable. They’re like two index fingers. I know, because he can play ‘Chopsticks’ on my piano with them.” Despite ourselves Artaud and I laughed. Of all the remaining Surrealists, Artaud still maintained a nominal relationship with Breton and Aragon, but despite his close friendship with Desnos Malkine was still tight with that group.
“Keep talking like that,” warned Louis’s voice from my thigh, “and Geoff won’t play mattress to any of us anymore.”
Desnos allowed us to run into his place at any hour of the night whenever we needed something. Malkine ran in there too even though he lived next door because he wanted to gawk at us undressed at Desnos’s sink. Artaud threw things at him, which merely amused our voyeur. Sometimes I felt that instead of defending me, Artaud was joking with Malkine at my expense.