prose

Regular Abductions

18 April 2018

The wind—behaving like a wave, look closely—crashes into the pinstriped awning. The woman (let’s call her ‘she’) steps out of the reasonably sized car, shoes settling on the asphalt. There is a wariness embedded within her; the passers-by drink it up. Her wariness is reasonably warranted. The streets are threatening. The world is safer all the time. All of life is dangerous to the touch, and every day, fewer men rot away. New government initiatives have reduced the number of plane crashes, children are regularly abducted from well-frequented public playgrounds and canned tomatoes are cheaper at the local supermarket. She rolls her neck—once, twice, three times if it matters, and it could very well matter. The wind, rolling off the sea, continues its surge and tide; the lilac and turquoise stripes above the storefront deform and misalign. A flutter—I think this is right—in the wind.

And she is striding across the road now, asphalt underfoot (reasonably compressed and in reasonable disrepair, for the convenience of council workers and letter writers alike). She is striding—yes, I have that right—to the storefront, to the lilac and turquoise awnings, and the bouquets of flowers in the window, and the exciting discounts therein. She strides, not allowing deviation, with a thrust and a purpose and a drive. The car (a sedan) continues to rumble. The door swings shut, a click sounding out. The awnings rattle.

The white door—was it off-white? Or cream? I recall it being white—has above it a single, brass bell: the kind you would buy from a pet store or garden emporium, or a farmers’ market for tourists and visitors and other persons unfamiliar with the streets and with the world. The bell is the kind with a single flat disc suspended within its curve—supple, I am told—within its supple curve; much the same as the bell of a church, the doors of which stay barred for fear of unauthorised prayer, or radical protest, or wind. The bell itself hangs loosely in front of the door—it was white, yes; not cream, not off-white—and knocks against itself in the wind (the wave). The wind, in its wave, snatches away all the sounds the bell might make.

She grips the handle of the door, swings it open. A gust blows the bell—flipping it, suspending it—as she walks in, one hand on her reasonably full wallet, the other over her reasonably sized heart. The waves (winds) subside and the bell falls, becoming trapped between the door and its frame, with a metal—sorry, a dulled metal clang.

Do I have this right?

She is more measured now: her hands parallel to the wooden floorboards (which creak as planned), her arms at angles of mathematical value, her head slightly tilted. The sounds of the outside (dangerous and calming, if you believe the news bulletins and county newspapers and tinny radio sets) are trapped on the other side of the glass, the awning; only a slight whine is held as the wind washes through the crack of the door. It is the sound of a lone car driving by, and of waves crashing onto the sandy beach, and of an elderly man sitting on a bench, writing a letter with ferocity, cracked pen to withered page.

She approaches the counter of the store. A younger woman looks up. A single rose and two tulips—this is not right, but nevertheless—are limp between her fingers. A card on the counter (for the flowers) reads, ‘hello, these are for you, please enjoy’. The script is curt—no, stern—no,  circumspect. The script is circumspect.

The script is—yes, curt—no, circumspect?—circumspect—

She asks for a tulip—What colour?—several tulips—What colours, I said—in lilac and—What was it?—a bunch, a bouquet of tulips in lilac and cream and turquoise and off-white. She does not look around—why would she?—but stares straight into the eyes of the younger woman—is she expecting someone?—the younger woman, with the limp fingers, and the two roses—and she looks straight—straight into the eyes—I am sure that this is right—the eyes of that woman.

Is this right?

This is right, I have this right—straight into the eyes—let me continue—I’m right—

—and she stands there and she waits, and the wind whistles, and the waves crash from their reasonable heights (conjuring reasonable fears of reasonably deadly tides among the reasonably rational residents of—nevertheless) and she stands there, and she waits some more, and the minutes pass, and the hours pass, and still she could wait a little longer.

And she waits a little longer, and she stands and ossifies—or I am told that is what she does—she ossifies as the weeds grow up around her and the vines intertwine and the flowers rejoin their natural home in the dirt and the potholes in the road expand and the letter writer passes on and the oceans freeze over and the oceans boil and the car door clicks open and the bell snaps in two and the door remains ajar and the asphalt decompresses and the neighbourhood gentrifies and the sun expands and the council rates fall slightly and the stars die out and the awnings stabilise and the potholes are filled and the crime rate falls and the buildings crumble down as the canned tomatoes rot.

And the younger woman returns with a bunch—correction, a bouquet—of tulips in turquoise and off-white and lilac and cream. The older woman (‘she’—yes, ‘she’) grasps them, and exchanges them for a reasonable sum of money, which the younger woman—so I am told—shall save for a rainy day when a hunger takes her and she skips her lunch or dinner. And, holding her flowers, the woman (yes. ‘she’.) turns away, and begins to journey home.


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