Little Expressionless Animals

David Foster Wallace

It’s 1976. The sky is low and full of clouds. The grey clouds are bulbous and wrinkled and shiny. The sky looks cerebral. Under the sky is a field, in the wind. A pale highway runs beside the field. Lots of cars go by. One of the cars stops by the side of the highway. Two small children are brought out of the car by a young woman with a loose face. A man at the wheel of the car stares straight ahead. The children are silent and have very white skin. The woman carries a grocery bag full of something heavy. Her face hangs loose over the bag. She brings the bag and the white children to a wooden fencepost, by the field, by the highway. The children’s hands, which are small, are placed on the wooden post. The woman tells the children to touch the post until the car returns. She gets in the car and the car leaves. There is a cow in the field near the fence. The children touch the post. The wind blows. Lots of cars go by. They stay that way all day.

It’s 1970. A woman with red hair sits several rows from a movie theater’s screen. A child in a dress sits beside her. A cartoon has begun. The child’s eyes enter the cartoon. Behind the woman is darkness. A man sits behind the woman. He leans forward. His hands enter the woman’s hair. He plays with the woman’s hair, in the darkness. The cartoon’s reflected light make faces in the audience flicker: the woman’s eyes are bright with fear. She sits absolutely still. The man plays with her red hair. The child does not look over at the woman. The theater’s cartoons, previews of coming attractions, and feature presentation last almost three hours.


To read the rest of this piece, purchase the issue.